Settlers: International donors should halt funding MDA to protest West Bank station closures

Magen David Adom has decided to close eight ambulance stations out of 17 in Judea and Samaria as of December 1.

Philanthropists abroad should halt their donations to Magen David Adom to protest its plan to temporarily close eight of 17 ambulance stations in West Bank settlements, the Samaria Citizens Committee said on Wednesday. Operational hours in three other West Bank ambulance stations that service settlers also could be reduced.
MDA had planned to cut ambulance service to Judea and Samaria as of December 1 to make up for a budgetary shortfall of NIS 5 million the government failed to transfer to the organization, senior MDA official Yonatan Yagodovsky said. On Wednesday, it agreed to delay the closures pending a discussion in the Knesset Finance Committee due to be held regarding the failed budgetary transfer.
The Samaria Citizens Committee, nevertheless, plans to continue its campaign to urge donors to stop funding MDA , charging that the closures would be permanent.
“The decision is delusional and contemptible,” said Sagi Kaizler, Samaria Citizens Committee director.
“It’s inconceivable that MDA would close these stations in the shadow of increased terrorism.”
The committee believes the plan is just one more step in a slow process of shutting down ambulance service in Judea and Samaria so MDA can honor a pledge to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A 2005 memorandum of understanding between MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society bans MDA from operating over the pre- 1967 borders, except in the Golan Heights, in favor of the Red Crescent, however, MDA always has claimed that the memorandum still allows it to offer services to Israelis in Judea and Samaria and areas of Jerusalem over the Green Line.
Kaizler dismissed MDA ’s claims, noting that the organization runs ambulances throughout the country but chose to make up for its shortfall by closing stations in Judea and Samaria, even though there are greater dangers there from car accidents and terror attacks. Such a decision, Kaizler said, “assists terrorists in achieving their goal of killing Jews.”
The decision had nothing to do with the 2005 agreement, Yagodovsky said, noting that MDA also was temporarily closing three stations in the Upper Galilee along the northern border.
The locations were chosen because they are among a small number of MDA stations that rely on government funding, Yogodovsky said.
MDA was so committed to running them, he said, that it used its own funds to do so, but indicated that this is no longer feasible.
According to MDA , the government had promised NIS 10m. in 2014 for ambulance stations in Judea and Samaria and along the northern border but that, to date, it had received only half that amount. Without the remainder, which is months overdue, MDA does not have the funds to continue to operate most of its stations in Judea and Samaria, it said.
“Due to this partial funding from the government, and in contrast to the agreed upon funding for operating the MDA stations in Judea and Samaria and on the northern border, MDA is forced to reduce the volume of activity in these areas due the costs of operation,” it said. “We again ask the parties responsible to make the necessary payment of funds as per the agreed financial commitment by the end of this year and for years to come.”
A Health Ministry spokeswoman, however, said it had provided MDA with funds based on the budget, and was negotiating with MDA over payment for additional costs. These type of negotiations occur each year and a solution is always found, she added.
Earlier this month, MDA sent the Health Ministry a letter warning of the planned December closures, portions of which were shown to The Jerusalem Post.
According to the document, if the closures move forward, ambulance service would be lost in the area of the settlements of Shaked, Beit Aryeh, Shavei Shomron, Alfei Menashe, Ariel, Dolev, Tekoa and the Megilot Regional Council near the Dead Sea.
MDA also intends to reduce the hours of service at the settlements of Givat Ze’ev and Betar Illit, as well as an ambulance station in the Jordan Valley.
Shlomo Vaknin, who is in charge of security for the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea and Samaria, said the MDA stations are fully equipped to handle all emergency calls and operate 24 hours-a-day. In addition, he said, there are some 60 locally owned ambulances stationed throughout Judea and Samaria manned by volunteer crews, however, those vehicles do not operate 24 hours-a-day and are not fully equipped for all emergencies.