US State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on Thursday that it was Israel’s right to decide not to renew the mandate of the international observer force in the city of Hevron.
Palladino was asked in a press briefing about the US decision to block a proposed UN Security Council statement expressing regret over Israel's decision to end the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH).
“The 1997 agreement on the temporary international presence in the city of Hebron clearly states that the consent of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is required in order to extend the mandate and presence of the TIPH. Furthermore, Oslo II and Hebron Protocol of 1997 also stated that the agreement from both sides was necessary for that to continue,” replied the spokesman.
“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 under the 1997 agreement. This is a sovereign decision and it’s the right of either party to make that agreement,” he stressed.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced last week that he would not renew the mandate of the 64-member team, saying, "We will not allow the continued presence of an international force acting against us.”
The Security Council had gathered on Wednesday at the request of Kuwait and Indonesia to discuss a draft statement expressing regret about Israel's "unilateral decision" and calling for "calm and restraint" in Hevron.
Israel’s decision to remove the Hevron observers was criticized by Norway, whose foreign minister suggested the move was in violation of the Oslo accords.
France’s foreign ministry criticized the move as well, saying that Israel’s decision “could potentially heighten tensions on the ground in an already precarious security context in Hebron, while Israel pursues its settlement policy in the city and in the rest of the West Bank and Jerusalem. France regrets this decision and calls on Israel to reexamine it.”
Turkey also blasted Israel’s decision and called on it to reverse the move.
TIPH has a unique status, despite being a non-governmental organization funded by six countries: Sweden, Turkey, Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Italy.
Unlike other NGOs, the organization's observers received updates and had regular meetings with representatives of the defense establishment, and they had free access to every place in Hevron, both on the Jewish side and on the Arab side.
The TIPH took advantage of the situation to support the Palestinian narrative. Recently, the existence of a book sold by the organization to Hevron terrorists was revealed. The book states, among other things, that the British Mandate for Palestine ended because of "a series of Zionist terror operations."
In 2011, one of the force monitors was caught violently assaulting a soldier who refused to allow him to pass through the checkpoint to the Jewish area of Hevron in the middle of the Sabbath. In this case, no significant step was taken.
In July, a TIPH member who took part in a tour of the Breaking the Silence organization in Tel Rumeida in Hevron slapped a 10-year-old Jewish boy. The member was arrested and forced to leave Israel by the Foreign Ministry.
A few weeks later, Netanyahu ordered the TIPH commander to be summoned for clarification by the Foreign Ministry following publication of footage on Arutz Sheva in which foreign observers are seen puncturing the tires of a car belonging to Jewish Hevron resident of Elad Fass.