'Stop playing games with our emergency services'

Yesha Council, representing half a million Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, rejects offer by United Hatzalah to fill in for MDA.

Hezki Baruch ,

MDA Jerusalem

The Yesha Council, which represents the nearly half million Jews living in Judea and Samaria, rejected an offer by the United Hatzalah emergency response organization to fill in for MDA, after MDA officials said Sunday that they would be forced to close most of their operations in Judea and Samaria on Monday, due to a lack of funds.

Last week, the director-general of MDA, Eli Bin, informed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that MDA would have to close most of its emergency response centers in Judea and Samaria if the Finance Committee did not immediately transfer funds allotted to MDA.

MDA, a volunteer organization which operates most of Israel’s ambulance services, is funded in part by the government, and is allotted a regular budget from the Health Ministry.

But on Sunday, Finance Committee Chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) barred the transfer of MDA’s budget, claiming that United Hatzalah had requested a similar budget from the government comparable to what MDA receives, but had yet to receive the funds. Gafni insisted that United Hatzalah, an organization made up largely of haredi volunteers, receive funding before money earmarked for MDA is released.

Hatzalah, an organization whose response time to emergencies is extremely rapid, operates in locations where MDA will continue to respond to calls, so that not funding MDA would leave Yesha residents with no emergency response services.

Amid the budget dispute, United Hatzalah notified the Yesha Council that it would be willing to expand operations to Judea and Samaria and temporarily operate MDA emergency response centers.

"Our activities will be done voluntarily and for free," stressed United Hatzalah’s Dov Maisel in a letter to the council.

On Monday, however, Yesha Council security chief Shlomo Vaknin turned down United Hatzalah’s offer, and accused United Hatzalah of bearing some of the responsibility for the withholding of funds for MDA.

“We ask that instead of offering to take [MDA’s] place at the emergency centers in our communities, you go to the Finance Committee chairman and withdraw your opposition to the transfer of funds for [MDA’s] life-saving operations,” Vaknin wrote.

“Blocking the funding of MDA is a reckless action against the medical needs of the residents of Judea, Samaria, and the Jordan Valley, who are now left with no [emergency response] services.”