Health ministers from around the world gathered in Geneva on Tuesday to take part in a conference held by the World Health Organization. But much like the anti-racism conference held just last month in the Swiss city, most of the focus was once again diverted from the agenda to political theatrics.
Deputy Health Minister, Ya'acov Litzman, was sent as Israel's representative to the WHO conference. However when the Iranian health minister rose to speak, Litzman left the hall in protest.
Litzman later returned, but when it was time for his speech several representatives from Arab nations echoed his earlier walkout.
The tensions began when the Palestinian representative proposed the conference issue a statement condemning Israel. Litzman, who took the stage a short time later, used his speech to emphasize the medical aid Israel gives to the Palestinians, particularly in times of crisis.
"We often find ourselves in a paradox when a terrorist and his victims are hospitalized one next to the other in Israeli hospitals and receive the same treatment," he said.
The deputy health minister called on other nations to invest more resources in medical research, and to prioritize these over investments in technologies that do not save lives.
The heated exchange between Israel and the Palestinians contradicts sharply with the rosy picture both sides tried to present earlier this month. With concerns over the swine flu pandemic at their peak, the Health Ministry announced it was cooperating closely with the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations to prevent the spread of the flu.