Int'l Red Cross slams MDA for operating in east Jerusalem, West Bank

ICRC president claims MDA not complying with 2005 agreement; MDA says it operates where Israelis live.

July 5, 2013 01:49
3 minute read.

MDA Ambulance. (photo credit: WIkicommons)

Magen David Adom is not in compliance with a 2005 agreement not to operate its ambulances in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, International Committee of the Red Cross President Peter Maurer told Israeli reporters in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

It was a message he repeated in meetings with Israeli leaders and MDA officials this week, as he visited Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Among the topics he discussed was a 2005 memorandum of understanding between MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which addressed the issue of ambulances in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), this 2005 agreement bans MDA from operating over the pre-1967 line, except in the Golan Heights, in favor of the Red Crescent.

As a result of the memorandum, MDA took its logo off ambulances operated by local Israeli authorities in West Bank settlements.

“The issue has been brought up in the meetings and I have just encouraged the MDA and the Israeli government to do the last steps in terms of implementation of the memorandum of understanding,” Maurer said.

“A lot of [Israeli] ambulances have been repainted and restructured and there are a couple of ambulances left, which need to follow those who have been repainted and reorganized to function in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.”

He added that a monitor examines Israeli compliance with this issue.

The monitor will report on the matter to the 19th General Assembly of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement scheduled for November in Australia.

But MDA spokesman Zaki Heller said that MDA has not agreed to cease operation in West Bank settlements and east Jerusalem.

Heller said his organization had interpreted the 2005 agreement to mean that MDA ambulances could operate where Israelis live, including West Bank settlements and Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem.

Similarly, he said, the Red Crescent ambulances service Palestinian West Bank communities and Palestinians in east Jerusalem.

There are 14 MDA stations in Judea and Samaria, he said. He added that only this week Karnei Shomron dedicated a renovated MDA ambulance station in that community.

Foreign Ministry officials explained that MDA was walking a fine line between privatizing service over the pre-1967 line to comply with the agreement, while still operating in Jewish communities in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The officials added that MDA signed the 2005 memorandum of understanding, but the Israeli government had not.

They added that they would not have advised MDA to sign the memorandum.

The agreement allowed Israel to be recognized as a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent movement and the ICRC.

Still, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin has also distanced Israel from the agreement, explaining that it does not represent government policy and that Israel should not be a party to it.

Separately in his meetings with Israeli leaders, Maurer dealt with the issue of missing soldiers.

Israel, he said, has asked the ICRC to look for signs of life or the mortal remains of five missing soldiers. But Maurer said that for confidentiality reasons, he could not name the five.

Maurer said he also assured the Palestinians that his organization would seek the return of the mortal remains of Palestinians, which are in Israeli hands.

Looking at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he noted that this was the 47th year in which Israel had “occupied” the West Bank and Gaza.

The Geneva Convention, which set outs rules for situations of occupation, he said, was not designed for such a long-term period.

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