Red Cross partner organizations of Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached an understanding on a proposed new symbol that could help pave the way for the Jewish state's entry into the Red Cross movement, officials said Friday.
The Israeli society known as the Magen David Adom, or Red Shield of David, will sign a deal with the Palestinian Red Crescent in Geneva on Monday securing acceptance of the "red crystal" - a new emblem the international aid agency is considering to recognize alongside the red cross and red crescent, the Swiss Foreign Ministry said.
The agreement will help pave the way for the acceptance of the new emblem by the 192 countries that have signed the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare when they meet in special session Dec. 5-6 in Geneva, said the ministry, which is hosting the conference.
Israel has been denied membership in the humanitarian movement for nearly six decades because it rejects the red cross used in most countries and the red crescent preferred by Muslim countries. The Palestinian society only has observer status because it is not under the jurisdiction of a recognized state.
"The route is now open for the adoption of the 'red crystal,"' Noam Iftah, president of Magen David Adom, said in an interview with the Geneva daily Le Temps. In return, he explained, the Magen David Adom would recognize the Palestinian group's unique capacity to operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Instead of a red Star of David that the Israeli society uses to identify ambulances and medical workers at home, Israel has proposed that the Magen David Adom could use the new emblem to protect medics in armed combat. The new emblem is called a red crystal by its proponents. It is a square standing on one corner, with a blank white interior and a thick red border.
"Here we have the chance to rectify an injustice that has gone on for too long," said Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to the UN's European headquarters.
Levanon told The Associated Press that acceptance from officials in the Palestinian Authority would help convince Arab countries to accept the new emblem. The last major attempt by the Red Cross to include Israel was five years ago, when it failed because of increased Arab-Israeli tension.
The Palestinians in the past "have been the most adamant against the new emblem," but now appear "ready to accept the crystal," he said.
But Levanon added countries would still have to agree on the new emblem at the December conference and that there were still some who might block ratification.
Representatives of the Palestinian Authority in Geneva declined to comment, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society did not immediately return a phone call.
The American Red Cross has been campaigning for full Israeli membership for years. It has withheld six years' of payment owed to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - totaling approximately $34 million - since May 2000 to protest Magen David Adom's exclusion.
The Israeli society says it will be allowed to put its Red Star of David in the center of the crystal for descriptive purposes, such as fund-raising. Other countries would also have a choice among the red cross emblem, the red crescent and the religiously neutral red crystal. Red Cross or Red Crescent societies also could use the crystal if they work in areas where their usual emblem is regarded as a liability.