Israel's rescue service on Tuesday welcomed the intention of the international Red Cross to introduce a new emblem that will pave the way for Israel's inclusion into the lifesaving organization. Switzerland will host a diplomatic conference in early December to approve the proposed new emblem, to be called the red crystal. The conference is expected to resolve a long-running dispute between Israel and the international Red Cross.
Israel's Magen David Adom rescue service currently uses a red Star of David to identify its ambulances and medical workers, rejecting the red cross used by most countries and the red crescent preferred by Muslim nations.
But Israel has not been permitted to use its symbol on international humanitarian missions, and has been denied full membership in the international Red Cross for 57 years because of the issue.
The red crystal depicts a square standing on one corner, with a blank white interior and a thick red border. Dr. Noam Yifrach, chairman of Magen David Adom, said Israeli aid workers would be able to insert a Star of David symbol into the crystal when working overseas.
"I am proud that they recognize the fact that we are a good Red Cross organization and they are stopping the prejudice against us," he said. "It is an important thing for us, to be part of lifesaving organizations that operate in the world."
The 192 countries that have signed the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of warfare are being invited to the Dec. 5-6 meeting in Geneva to debate the proposed emblem, the international Red Cross said.
Yifrach said support for Israel within the international Red Cross has grown dramatically in recent years, and he expected almost all of the Red Cross organizations to approve the new symbol.
He said this was mostly due to American backing, singling out U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York for their support.
Clinton is scheduled to visit with Magen David Adom representatives in Israel next week, he said. Clinton will be in Israel to attend ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
The American Red Cross has also 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 (Ђ28 million), since May 2000 to protest the MDA's exclusion.
The American Red Cross itself faces the prospect of being excluded for not paying its dues, a gesture not lost on its Israeli colleagues.