Magen David Adom ambulance
Magen David Adom ambulanceIsrael news photo:

There has not been much “understanding” lately between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas continues to launch missiles at Israeli cities, towns and kindergartens. The PA continues to refuse international blandishments to get it to the negotiation table and its request for recognition at the UN put paid to whatever remained of the disastrous Oslo Accords.

Israel’s Red Magen David Emergency Services (MDA), however, seems in 2005 to have succeeded in reaching an “understanding” with the PA’s Red Crescent Society (PRCS) on how to run emergency rescue services in Judea and Samaria.

But there's a catch - or maybe several.

The “Memorandum of Understanding between Magen David Adom in Israel and Palestine Red Crescent Society,” a copy of which reached Arutz Sheva, includes having Israel called an “occupier” and agrees that “internationally recognized borders” are the line of demarcation for Red Crescent chapters rather than those of  Red Magen David.  In addition, Israel’s famed Red Star of David is scrapped and exchanged for a Red Crystal.

The memorandum was signed in Geneva on November 28, 2005 by Dr. Noam Yifrach, the Israeli Organization’s chairman and Younis Al-Khatib, President of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, in the presence of official representatives of the ICRC, IFRC and a special representative on the emblem. 

As a  reward, the Israeli rescue organization was to obtain its long-coveted membership in the International Red Cross. The agreement, on how to operate rescue services, states that its goal is "to pave the way for the membership of both societies in the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, committed to operating in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The existence of the joint  International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies enables Moslem countries to avoid having a cross on their rescue vehicles. Israel, wanting neither cross nor crescent, chose the emotion-evoking Red Star of David and functioned independently. It was never accepted into the organization anyway, despite repeated requests, due to Arab opposition.

The year 2005 was cited in Israel as a breakthrough, but at what cost that change in attitude was achieved was not publicized.

Arutz Sheva spoke to Yoni Yisraeli, head of rescue operations for the Shomron Regional Authority, who explained that motivation for joining the IFRC, aside from Israel's natural and often hopeless desire to be part of world bodies, also has a financial aspect.

A $100,000 award for signing the document was part of the deal for each of the local societies, perhaps to be followed by more, and given Magen David Adom's ongoing financial crisis, this must have been tempting, he said.

Except, he added, that the heads of the societies seem to have received that sum for themselves.  

And the Red Cross did not give that money for nothing. Below are some direct quotes from the document signed by Israel’s representative - no Oslo-created Areas A,B,C here  [Area A is only PA, B is shared, C is only Israeli], just "Palestinian territory".  The context makes the definition of those two words clear enough: 

“MDA and PRCS will operate in conformity with the legal framework applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel in 1967.”

“MDA and PRCS recognize that PRCS is the authorized national society in the Palestinian territory and that this territory is within the geographical scope of the operational activities and of the competences of PRCS”.

“After the Third Protocol Additional is adopted and by the time MDA is admitted to the …International Red Cross and Red Cresecent societies, MDA will ensure that it has no chapters outside the internationally recognized border of the state of Israel.”

Efrat, Gilo, Maaleh Adumim, Ariel and Kedumim and other Yesha communities, take note.

Operational activities of one society within the jurisdiction of the other society will be conducted in accordance with the consent provision of resolution 11…”

That seems to say, Israeli ambulances over pre 1967 borders – yes; chapters, no.

"MDA and PRCS will use a distinctive emblem in conformity with the requirements of the Geneva conventions and its Third Additional Protocol.”

The Third Additional Protocol introduces a third symbol, the red crystal, which, to quote the Protocol itself  “will make it easier for national societies who do not wish to use the red cross or the red crescent emblems to be recognized and admitted to the Movement. This consolidates the Movement's universality”.

Cross and crescent, yes. Jewish star, no. Sublimely universal.

Oddly, for six years after the agreement, nothing changed visibly.  Suddenly, in recent weeks, Israelis were up in arms to see that the Red Star of David symbol had disappeared from Israeli ambulances in Judea and Samaria, to be replaced by an odd symbol that meant nothing to anyone.

Questioners were told that the Star of David is not recognized by the international organization and that the rest of the country’s ambulances would soon follow suit.

A grassroots rebellion saw red Jewish star stickers being pasted on ambulances and volunteers from Judea and Samaria refusing to go to their stations.

That may or may not work, said Yisraeli, but since local authorities are not allowed to own ambulances but must rent them from Red Magen David, the society’s agreements affect everyone. These operate where the community is not large enough to have its own station.

But what is to become of the requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding?  And did the Foreign Ministry know and agree to MDA's relinquishing jurisdiction in Judea and Samaria as well as replacing the Star of David symbol for some pieces of silver? It depends on who is asked and whose interpretation of the document is accepted.

Arutz Sheva did not get any clear answers and the head of MDA was not available for comments. The Knesset is supposed to debate the issue in the near future, said a Shomron Regional Authority source.