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Daily Israel Report

RedCross Accepts New Diamond Symbol; Jewish Star Can Fit Inside

The new symbol's recognition means that Israel's Magen David Adom is now only a step away from acceptance in the International Red Cross - but the Shield of David will have to be "shielded" inside.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/8/2005, 1:46 PM / Last Update: 12/8/2005, 9:58 AM

The new symbol is a red diamond, which now joins the red cross and red crescent as officially recognized emblems. The benefit for Israel is that it has been allowed to place its traditional Shield of David - a six-pointed star - inside the diamond, under certain conditions. Israeli ambulances and vehicles at home may use the diamond/Shield of David design, as well as abroad - if the host country agrees. Israeli rescue services often operate outside Israel in emergency situations.

The International Red Cross refused to allow the Star of David to stand on its own, despite its agreement to allow Moslem countries to use a Red Crescent.

The new decision was a compromise between a long-standing Israeli demand to use its Red Star of David (the literal translation of Magen David Adom), and the objections of the Arab countries.

The new diamond emblem can also be used by any national Red Cross society when it fears that the red cross or crescent identifying its ambulances and workers would not be respected by combatants.

The diamond compromise was enabled following an agreement signed ten days ago between Israel's Magen David Adom and the Palestinian Authority's Red Crescent.

The deal on "operational arrangements" was signed at a ceremony in Geneva by Noam Yifrach, chairman of the Magen David Adom, and Younis Al-Khatib, president of the Palestinian Red Crescent (PRC). The agreement basically grants the PRC official authorities in the Arab areas of Judea and Samaria. The two groups have long cooperated on the ground, but the new accord signifies their formal mutual recognition.

The new diamond emblem was voted on last night by a majority vote of the 192 signatories of the Geneva Conventions. The vote was 98 in favor, 27 against and 10 abstentions, with many states - mainly small ones - not present.

"Unfortunately, it has not been possible to adopt the protocol by consensus, but it has been adopted by a clear majority," said Didier Pfirter, a Swiss diplomat who has been coordinating global efforts to muster support for the new emblem. The lack of unanimity was caused by Syria's insistence on authorized use of its vehicles in the Golan, just as the PRC received in Judea and Samaria. Israel, however, has officially annexed the Golan Heights, and refuses to allow Syrian entry.

"The most important thing is the result," said Noam Yifrach, president of Magen David Adom. "Tomorrow nobody will remember the numbers, the votes. Everybody will have the third protocol [the diamond] and more protection."

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies must still convene this spring to change the organization's statutes to incorporate the new emblem, after which Israeli membership will be considered and, most likely, approved. Israel has been excluded from the organization since 1949.