WASHINGTON - The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Israel’s decision to throw out a an international monitoring group from the city of Hebron in the West Bank, was not in violation of Israel’s agreements with the Palestinian Authority, and should be treated as an internal decision.
“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the Israeli decision not to renew, it would be inaccurate to accuse Israel of not having the right to make this decision,” said Robert Palladino, a spokesman for the Department. He added that “this is a sovereign decision and it’s the right of either party (Israel or the PA) to make that agreement.”
Palladino added that he “has nothing further” on the subject. Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. blocked an attempt to denounce the decision at the UN Security Council.
Netanyahu announced last month that Israel would not be renewing the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), which ended on January 31.
"We will not allow the presence of an international force that operates against us," Netanyahu said at the time.
In a joint statemnt on Friday, foreign ministers of the member nations of the monitoring force (Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey) said Netanyahu's decision represents "departure from Oslo accords." They denied that observers were acting with an anti-Israeli bias, and emphasized Israel's legal obligations to protect residents of Hebron and the rest of the West Bank.
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- Israel's Left and Right Agree: Hebron Monitoring Force Wasn't Helping a Tense City
- Erekat to UN: Stop Israel's Plan to Expel International Monitoring Force From 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.