Knesset caucus demands Hebron observer group get the boot

Confirmation of biased, anti-Israel activities on the part of a civilian observer mission in Hebron came from a former official.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Members of Knesset belonging to the Land of Israel caucus have sent a formal letter to their colleagues asking for support in ending the mandate of The International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).

TIPH, a civilian observer mission, began operating in Hebron after the massacre of 29 Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarchs by Dr. Baruch Goldstein in 1994. It was withdrawn twice, but ever since the city was divided into Palestinian- and Israeli-controlled sections in 1997, the U.N.-backed group has maintained a constant presence in the city.

TIPH’s mandate requires renewal every three months by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Right-wing Knesset members are pushing to expel the group.

The official mandate of the mission is to create a “feeling of security” and “enhanc[e] the well-being of the Palestinians in Hebron.” Its formal goals also include reporting on any IDF or Jewish civilian activity that the observers view as harassment of Arabs or a violation of their human rights.

In July, one TIPH member was caught on camera puncturing the tires of Jews’ cars, and its legal counsel was filmed slapping a 10-year-old Jewish boy’s face. The latter was ordered to leave the country, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely took the opportunity to review the history of the organization. Earlier this month she sent a letter to the prime minister recommending that the TIPH mandate not be extended, not only because observers “employ actual violence against Jews,” but also because “it is inconsistent with Israeli interests.”

“Unlike their mandate, they hold anti-Israeli information tours in the city, various diplomatic representatives, and joint activities with BDS organizations and activists from Israel and abroad,” the letter states.

Confirmation of these biased activities came from an unusual outside source Sunday. Israel Hayom reported that Bennet Nygaard Solum, a former Norwegian procurement and finance officer of the observer force, testified in a sworn affidavit in the beginning of November that “TIPH does not comply with its own code of ethics, does not respect Israeli and Palestinian law in Hebron, and prefers to protect its members from accusations, with all that entails,” including falsifying records and not reporting fraud perpetrated by TIPH members.

Solum also confirmed that three TIPH members had participated during their free time in a tour of Hebron organized by the extreme leftist group Breaking the Silence.

Regarding the specific tire-puncturing incident, he said, “TIPH’s deputy commander lied to the police and said that he did not know the member of the force who carried out the act, in order to protect TIPH, even though he knew who was involved. The man was protected from any legal proceedings and was sent straight home to Italy, where the official explanation was that he was leaving for family reasons.”

The same quick exit was afforded the Swiss man who slapped the little boy.

The former TIPH officer admitted that he himself had participated in a number of cover-ups some seven years ago and that he was speaking now to set the record straight.