MDA, Palestinian Red Crescent: closer cooperation

Dr. Noam Yifrach, chairman of Magen David Adom's executive committee, revealed the details of the agreement reached between MDA and the Palestinian Red Crescent organization as part of the process of joining the International Red Cross, at a Tel Aviv press conference on Sunday. The short-term agreement with the Palestinian Red Crescent, Yifrach said, included a commitment on MDA's part to lobby with the Israeli government to meet the Palestinians' humanitarian needs, such as a minimum of security-related delays for ambulances passing through IDF roadblocks in Judea and Samaria. MDA, Yifrach said, had reached an agreement with the Israeli government according to which the Palestinians would be given six ambulances, staffed by 23 pre-approved Red Crescent members. These ambulances will be allowed through checkpoints with almost no security checks. The Palestinians, Yifrach said, had also requested ease of passage for Red Crescent ambulances at some 200 roadblocks throughout Judea and Samaria. In addition, MDA has consented to create a common communications network with the Red Crescent that operates on the same frequencies, so they can be in constant contact concerning Palestinian medical problems. The network has been in operation for almost five months. "If they have any kind of problem, or are held up at a roadblock, they can immediately contact us and we will get there," Yifrach said. "We will not allow any patients to die at roadblocks," he said. "If we have to have a confrontation with the soldiers, we will. An 18-year-old soldier cannot always judge a situation. We will not allow for a pregnant woman to have to give birth at a roadblock. If this happens, it will have grave implications." Being part of the International Red Cross, Yifrach said, would enable MDA workers to operate with diplomatic immunity anywhere in the world. "We will now be able to go to any prison, to meet prisoners and war prisoners, and to search for missing persons," Yifrach said. MDA will now also receive international funds through the organization's Geneva headquarters, Yifrach said. One of the reasons for which MDA was repeatedly refused acceptance into the International Red Cross for the past five decades was its refusal to abandon its symbol, a red Star of David. When it operates outside Israel in the future, MDA will be identified by a Star of David enclosed within a red diamond. Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, chairman of the American Red Cross, which played a central role in the process that led to MDA's acceptance into the International Red Cross, welcomed it to the movement. "This is a historic event," she said. "This is a step towards the universality we hold so dear."