Israel envoy to UN calls Hebron observer force 'violent, biased'
Danny Danon says Norwegian-led monitors mission 'created friction and interfered with security forces,' defending Netanyahu's decision not to renew the mission's mandate; remarks come after US blocked Security Council statement expressing regret at Israel's action.
Danny Danon said that instead of maintaining order and neutrality, the observers "used violence, created friction with the civilian population, and interfered with security forces."
The United States on Wednesday blocked an Arab-backed Security Council statement put forward by Indonesia and Kuwait expressing regret at Israel's action, recognizing the observer mission's "efforts to foster calm in a highly sensitive area," and calling for protection of Palestinian civilians.
In the West Bank city of Hebron, hundreds of hardline Jewish settlers live alongside more than 200,000 Palestinians.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron or TIPH was established in 1994 following Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein's massacre of 29 worshippers in the city's Ibrahimi Mosque. The mosque is located at a site that is also revered by Jews as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.
A Security Council resolution adopted in March 1994 strongly condemned the Hebron massacre and called for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians, which led to TIPH. In its latest form, Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey provided unarmed observers and funded the mission.
Foreign ministers from the five countries expressed regret at Israel's announcement in December that it would not renew TIPH's mandate which expired on January 31 and stressed Israel's obligation to protect the people in Hebron and other Palestinian areas.
"The contributing countries have supported the mission to fulfill its mandate at the parties' request, and in the parties' interest" and have "contributed to preventing violence and promoting a feeling of security for the population in Hebron," their joint statement said.
"We therefore strongly object to any claim that the TIPH has acted against Israel," the ministers said. "Such claims are unacceptable and ungrounded."
Israel's Danon was critical.
"There is no place in Israel or anywhere in the world for an international force to harm the country in which it operates," he said.
"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," Danon said. "That the Palestinians want to maintain violent observers in Hebron attests to their intentions."