An MDA spokesman said the impending closure of 13 West Bank ambulance stations out of the agency’s 17 stations there is unrelated to pressure by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which has been highly critical of MDA’s operations in the West Bank. Still, the loss of funding comes only weeks before an international monitor is scheduled to issue a report about MDA’s compliance with ICRC agreements.
MDA is in negotiations with the Health and Defense ministries in an attempt to resecure its funding for West Bank operations. A spokeswoman for the Health Ministry said the budget cut “jeopardizes” MDA’s actions in the West Bank, adding that it is the responsibility of the regional development minister to provide the additional funding. A spokesman for that ministry was not available for comment.
Yonatan Yagodovsky, who directs MDA’s international relations and fund-raising, told The Jerusalem Post the organization has no interest in closing its stations. “We are clearly stating MDA would like to continue to provide the services,” Yagodovsky said. “It’s very hard for Magen David Adom to say ‘guys, we can’t provide the services.’ It’s against the core of our organization.”
MDA has been facing pressure from the ICRC to defer emergency response in the West Bank to the Palestinian Red Crescent. MDA has disputed the ICRC’s analysis and argues that it is permitted to operate stations in areas where Israelis live. A Geneva-based representative of the ICRC did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
In any event, MDA said it plans to continue responding to emergency calls in the West Bank whether or not it has all of its physical stations there.
Yigal Dilmoni, deputy CEO of the Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, said he is hopeful that the funding will not be interrupted.
“It’s not only for us. It’s for the soldiers. It’s for the Palestinians.
It’s not only [an issue for] the Israelis in Judea and Samaria,” he said.
If MDA closes its stations in the West Bank, United Hatzalah is preparing to take its place, according to Hatzalah founder Eli Beer.
“We’re not going to let anyone be in danger,” he told the Post. “If they need to open stations that are closed, we will go in there with our people and bring ambulances and open stations.”
MDA said it would spend the next two weeks evaluating alternatives before it makes a final decision on the fate of its West Bank stations.