'Historic' Red Cross vote on MDA to be held Thursday

Neutral 'diamond' symbol expected to be approved.

Although some Arab countries are still trying to fight it, the 29th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in Geneva is expected to approve on Thursday the addition of a neutral "crystal" symbol and admit Magen David Adom as a full-fledged member. Representatives of 190 governments and 180 national societies will be at the meeting, which opens on Tuesday and will hold the important vote on Thursday. If approved, Israel's first-aid, blood-supply and ambulance organization will immediately become a member and be entitled to put its Red Star of David symbol inside a red diamond. MDA chairman Dr. Noam Yifrach said that it will be a historic end to a long struggle that has continued since 1949, when an attempt to admit MDA was rejected by one vote, and MDA "will receive international recognition for its important humanitarian work around the world." It is largely a formal vote, as last December the diplomatic conference of the signatories to the Geneva Convention approved Protocol III to the convention recognizing an additional symbol. Two-thirds of the delegates present must approve that decision when it comes to a vote on Thursday, Yifrach said. Israeli ambulances and staffers will continue to bear the Red Star of David symbol with pride, he said. Only on international missions, when necessary, would it be enclosed or accompanied by a red rectangle standing on one end. Yifrach praised the Foreign Ministry, the US and its American Red Cross for their continued efforts to get MDA official recognition. When admitted to the movement, MDA will be entitled to special funding, expand its humanitarian work abroad, cooperate with other members and improve its rescue services inside Israel, he added. Some member countries such as Syria, Iran, Yemen and Lebanon have in recent weeks tried to prevent MDA's inclusion in the movement, but "the Americans tell us they are sure it will pass and we will be admitted," the MDA chairman said.