Israeli politicians and the heads of the Jewish community are calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to end the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH) observer mission following a police special report that implicates several of the force’s members of illegal, violent and anti-Israel activities.
The police report relates to an incident in which a TIPH observer was recorded slashing the tires on the car of a Jewish resident of Hebron in 2017.
Police approached the group’s leader in July 2018 regarding the incident after footage of the vandalism was published in the media. Instead of making the member available for questioning, the TIPH head delayed his response, saying instead that the organization would conduct an “internal probe.” When police followed up a few days later, they were told the observer had already left the country. The police were forced to close the case.
A second video from the summer of 2018 captured a more violent incident, in which another TIPH member, a Swiss national on a tour of Hebron led by the controversial Breaking the Silence organization, slapped a local 10-year-old Jewish boy.
The Swiss ambassador issued a lukewarm apology while essentially blaming the Jews for the incident. Israel’s Foreign Ministry ordered the TIPH observer to leave the country.
TIPH’s mission states that its purpose since it was created in 1997 is to support Israel and the Palestinian Authority “in their efforts to improve the situation in Hebron and to create a sense of security for the Palestinians in Hebron.”
However, it often serves as a body that operates against the IDF and the Jews of Hebron, including the alleging of human rights abuses and violations of the Oslo Accords and UN resolutions. Many of the observers come from Turkey, which is outwardly hostile towards Israel.
The police report states that the members of the delegation interfere with the soldiers’ activities at checkpoints and with other security-related activities, that the Palestinians exploit the organization and its political views to file false complaints against the army and the police about human rights violation, and alleged incidents of assaults and violence.
The report further noted that members of the delegation are paid a high salary and are apparently trying to justify their activities and their presence in the area by creating a semblance of friction which they are handling.
The observer mission has also been running joint tours of Hebron with Breaking the Silence for groups of diplomats and left-wing activists.
Following the police report, Minister of Internal Security Gilad Edan called on Netanyahu not to renew TIPH’s mandate when it comes time at the end of the month.
“It is no wonder that a force comprised of policemen from a hostile Islamic state such as Turkey, and pro-Palestinian countries sponsoring boycotts such as Sweden and Norway, interferes with the actions of the IDF soldiers and police, creates friction with the Israeli residents, cooperates with radical organizations and promotes the delegitimization of Israel. It is right and proper for the Israeli government to prevent the continuation of this ‘temporary’ force acting to harm Israel,” Erdan stated.
The Jewish community in Hebron stated Thursday that TIPH’s “temporary” presence in Hebron is concluding its 22nd year, and called on Netanyahu to end it immediately.
“The horrible mistake of the Hebron agreement cannot be rectified, but removing TIPH from the city is the least that can be done,” they said in a statement, adding that “there was no justification to leave the force as a body that is involved in provocations, anti-Semitic propaganda and violent activities.”
The Yesha Council, the umbrella organization of the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, stated that the police report proves their claims that the TIPH members “attack IDF soldiers and interfere with their operations, and that their reports are aimed primarily at tarnishing the image of the State of Israel.”
They demanded to stop TIPH’s “temporary” mandate, saying that its activities have been “going on for too long. This is the time to say goodbye and good riddance.”
Tzipi Shlissel, a resident of Hebron and the author of a book on Hebron with a full chapter dedicated to TIPH, told TPS that the observers’ reports are biased and ignore any incidents regarding attacks on Jews.
She pointed out that TIPH has a hotline for reports, but only in the Arabic language. When they come to take statements after various incidents, they never ask Jews for their accounts, she said.
Recounting one recent incident, Shlissel told of an incident in which an Israel was attacked by Arab youth. The IDF arrived and detained the youth for assault, and then TIPH issued a report that alleging that the IDF needlessly detained an Arab youth, without giving the full account of the incident.
As an example of TIPH’s provocative actions, she notes that the observers tour areas in Hebron in which there are no Arabs, only Jews, when their mandate is to address areas of friction, and therefore have no business being there.
By Aryeh Savir/TPS
Photo by (Tzipi Shlissel/TPS)