Israel ambulances - Moti Milrod - August 30 2011
Israeli ambulances with the Magen David Adom symbol. Photo by Moti Milrod
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Magen David Adom says it will implement a 2005 agreement to stop funding and operating ambulances in the West Bank, according to a document on the undertaking obtained by Haaretz.

According to the pledge, the local authorities in the West Bank will run the ambulance service, whose staff will wear different uniforms to distinguish them from their MDA colleagues in Israel proper.

These steps had been agreed on in 2005, when Magen David Adom joined the International Federation of the Red Cross, but had not been implemented. MDA would also remove the Star of David from its ambulances in the West Bank, replacing it with a red diamond shape.

For its part, Magen David Adom said in a statement on Thursday that it is "not familiar with the document in question. We denounce the attempt to use fragmental information, most of it distorted, and present it as facts. Magen David Adom is operating as usual with no change in the entire West Bank, with the organization's emblem as it has been until now."

In June this year, Magen David Adom agreed to implement the 2005 measures at a meeting with former IFRC general secretary Per Stenbeck and the Palestinian Red Crescent chairman in Finland.

Magen David Adom signed understandings with the Palestinian Red Crescent in 2005 to stop operating ambulances in the West Bank, which falls under the PRC's jurisdiction. A senior Red Cross source said that then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon personally authorized the agreement.

Stenbeck, a former Finnish foreign minister, was appointed to supervise the implementation of the deal.

In 2009, Magen David Adom told Stenbeck it had transferred its ambulances in the West Bank to the local authorities, but could not change the emblem. On March 22 this year, the IFRC management met in Geneva and insisted that Israel carry out this clause.

At the beginning of June this year, senior Red Cross officials from the United States, France, Indonesia and Turkey came to Israel to pressure Magen David to change the emblem on the ambulances.

At the meeting in Finland later that month, Magen David Adom Chairman Noam Yifrah, the head of the Palestinian Red Crescent and Stenbeck agreed to change the Star of David emblems on the ambulances and the MDA's uniforms in the West Bank. Yifrah submitted examples of the new emblem and promised that foreign donations for buying Magen David Adom ambulances would not be used for buying ambulances for the settlements.

In August, MDA started calling in ambulances from the West Bank to Israel to change the emblem, angering the settlers and raising a political uproar.

Stenbeck came to Israel last month and met Foreign Ministry officials, who told him they support the full implementation of the agreement.

On November 13, Magen David Adom told the IFRC it had changed the markings on 62 of 68 ambulances posted in settlements, with a picture showing the new emblem. The emblem on five mobile intensive care units and nine ambulances that MDA still operates in the West Bank will be replaced by the end of 2012, it said.

Magen David Adom also said it had ordered new uniforms for its volunteers in the West Bank but had yet to receive them.

MDA reported that it had problems with foreign donators due to the decision to change the emblem and had received a letter from the state comptroller asking for a clarification on the issue. It also said a number of settlers had changed the emblem on the ambulances themselves and MDA intended to take legal steps against them.