“The U.S. stands by Israel’s right to not renew TIPH’s mandate and to act on its own accord to ensure stability, without the help of a violent, biased international force,” Ambassador Danny Danon stated.
By Associated Press and World Israel News
Kuwait and Indonesia urged the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday to call for protection of Palestinians following Israel’s decision to suspend an international observer mission in Hebron, where hundreds of Israelis live alongside more than 200,000 Palestinians, but diplomats said the United States objected.
The two predominantly Muslim nations on the council called closed-door discussions on the Israeli announcement and then circulated a draft press statement that would recognize the mission’s “efforts to foster calm in a highly sensitive area and fragile situation on the ground.” But the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, rejected the proposed statement, diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron was established in 1994 following Israeli Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 worshippers at the Cave of the Patriarchs that triggered riots across Palestinian areas.
Indonesia’s U.N. ambassador, Dian Djani, told reporters that he and Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi brought up Israel’s action because they don’t want to see a repetition of the 1994 incident and want “to make sure the situation that is already fragile and tense … is not going to worsen.”
Al-Otaibi said there was “overwhelming support” for an expression of concern that Israel’s action might exacerbate the situation on the ground, saying the mission “was like a preventative tool.”
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) had operated in Hebron based on a mandate regularly renewed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in a statement on Monday, “We won’t allow an international force to act against us.”
While TIPH’s mission is ostensibly to monitor compliance with the agreement that divided the administration of the city between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, group members have been caught committing crimes against Israelis.
Last year, for example, TIPH’s legal counsel assaulted a 10-year Jewish child in Hebron, slapping the young boy across the face. In another incident, a staff member punctured the tire of a Jewish resident’s vehicle.
TIPH has also been accused of provoking Israeli security forces, collaborating with fringe left-wing groups, and interfering with the daily life of local Israeli residents of Hebron.
“There is no place in Israel or anywhere in the world for an international force to harm the country in which it operates. Instead of maintaining order and neutrality, TIPH observers used violence, created friction with the civilian population, and interfered with security forces,” Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon stated in response to the U.S. move.
“The United States stands by Israel’s right to not renew TIPH’s mandate and to act on its own accord to ensure stability, without the help of a violent, biased international force. That the Palestinians want to maintain violent observers in Hebron attests to their intentions,” he added.
Ambassador Anatolio Ndong Mba of Equatorial Guinea, the current council president, signaled differences among Council members immediately after the meeting, where the U.S. said Israel had a right not to renew the temporary mission.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador at the U.N., stressed that “it is the duty of the Security Council on the basis of the resolutions” to ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians and said he looked forward to meeting with Ndong Mba “as quickly as possible.”
But Al-Otaibi told reporters that council visits require approval by all 15 members as well as the countries involved, so the U.S. and Israel would have to give a green light.