- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

GENEVA — The Red Cross and Red Crescent may be joined after 56 years by a third international symbol protected under the Geneva Conventions, offering a solution to a decades-old dispute with Israel. But it won’t be the Star of David.

Switzerland announced yesterday that it will convene a diplomatic conference of the 192 state parties to the Geneva Conventions by the end of the year to consider the adoption of a new symbol.

Such a step long has been sought by Israel’s humanitarian relief organization, Magen David Adom (MDA), which is excluded from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement because it operates under a red Star of David.

“This is a very positive step toward the goal of making the Red Cross-Red Crescent movement truly universal,” said Kevin Moley, the U.S. ambassador to international organizations in Geneva.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent were singled out for protection under the humanitarian Geneva Conventions of 1949, but the Israeli organization has been unwilling to operate under the symbol of a non-Jewish faith.

Efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the problem began in the early part of 2000 but were shelved with the outbreak of the intifada, or uprising, in the Palestinian territories later that year.

Diplomats said the new emblem was expected to take the form of a red diamond-shaped crystal, which would be devoid of national, religious or cultural significance and, therefore, inoffensive to any national societies.

The proposal does allow for national societies to put a national symbol, such as the Star of David, in the center of the diamond.

The announcement was made yesterday after two days of closed-door talks involving delegates from 123 countries.

Participants cited a “spirit of cooperation” and said a majority had indicated support for a conference, but they cautioned that there was still no firm decision even to adopt a third emblem.

About 30 countries clearly supported the move, and many more indicated they could go along with the idea. But at least 23 Arab and other Islamic countries said the time was not ripe.

“This is totally political,” said one ambassador from a large developing country.

Senior Arab envoys, who declined to be identified, told The Washington Times that they would pose certain questions, including whether the MDA would use the new symbol in the Palestinian territories.

“This is very important, and we expect these to be addressed at the start of the informal consultations, and not later,” the Arab diplomats said.

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