- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 22, 2006

After two days of bitter deadlock because of Arab objections, the International Red Cross/Red Crescent voted yesterday to accept Israel as a member, ending the Jewish state’s decades-long quest.

Meeting in Geneva, Red Cross/Red Crescent members voted 237-54, with 18 abstentions, to allow use of the “red crystal,” an alternate emblem that Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency medical service, said was religiously neutral.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has refused to grant MDA membership since 1949 because of its desire to use the crystal instead of the traditional cross.

The vote was greeted with “cheers and delirium” by the Israelis, said Marla Gilson of Hadassah, a Zionist women’s organization that has strongly supported MDA.

Honoring a deal made in November, the Palestinian Red Crescent also was accepted simultaneously, making an exception to the rule that members should be located in sovereign states.

“Both societies coming in together in equality will serve the interests of the people in the Middle East best,” Ian Piper of the ICRC told the Associated Press.

The American Red Cross, which withheld $42 million in Red Cross dues to protest MDA’s exclusion, voiced relief at the positive outcome.

“This has been going on for 58 long years. It’s time. It’s overdue,” American Red Cross Chairman Bonnie McElveen-Hunter told the AP.

Strong political objections to the resolution from many Muslim states delayed the vote until the early yesterday, Red Cross officials said.

A Muslim amendment that would have challenged Israel’s occupation of Arab territory since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War was rejected by a 191-72 vote.

“We were really hoping that at this conference the participants would focus on the humanitarian principals of their organizations rather than the politics of their countries,” said Daniel Allen, executive vice president of American Friends of MDA.

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