Member Nations of Hebron Monitoring Force Slam Israeli Decision to Terminate Mandate

Foreign ministers of Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey say Netanyahu's decision represents 'departure from Oslo accords,' deny observers were acting with an anti-Israeli bias

Members of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) are seen in the West Bank city on January 29, 2019.
AFP

Israel's expulsion of the international task force monitoring the West Bank city of Hebron violates the Oslo II Accord, the foreign ministers of the five countries comprising the force said in a joint statement issued Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he would not renew the Temporary International Presence in Hebron's mandate.

Friday's statement, signed by the foreign ministers of Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey, expressed concern that the decision "undermines one of the few established mechanisms for conflict resolution between Israelis and Palestinians," and emphasized Israel's legal obligations to protect residents of Hebron and the rest of the West Bank.

The signatories said they "strongly object to any claims that TIPH acted against Israel," calling the claims "unacceptable and ungrounded."

>> Confidential report based on 20 years of monitoring claims: Israel regularly breaks international law in Hebron

Noting that TIPH had no mandate as of February 1, the statement said the force "will therefore close down in an orderly, safe and dignified manner within a realistic timeframe."

The German foreign ministry lamented the decision to remove the task force without a replacement, saying in a statement that "Hebron is one of the places where the consequences of the conflict are particularly tangible" and the TIPH contributed to de-escalate conflict between settlers and Palestinians as well as it could.

"International efforts now need to focus on ensuring that this will not lead to more violence in Hebron," it concluded.

The European Union also issued a statement opposing the decision, saying it risked "further deteriorating the already fragile situation on the ground."

A statement released Saturday through United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres' spokesman said he "hopes that an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve the TIPH’s long-standing and valuable contribution to conflict prevention and the protection of Palestinians in Hebron."

While Netanyahu's decision was announced Monday, international responses from officials bodies came Friday and Saturday as a result of deliberations and coordination between the different agencies and ministries.

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) was established in 1994 following the Goldstein massacare at the Ibrahimi Mosque, when a Jewish man entered the Tomb of the Patriarchs and murdered 29 Muslims at prayer. Its present form was the result of the Oslo Accords Hebron Protocol, which allowed the partial redeployment of Israeli military forces to the part of the city that remained under its control. 

The force was later expanded as part of the Wye River Memorandum, signed in 1998 by Netanyahu, then serving his first term as premier, and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.