The Trump Administration further cemented its strong support of Israel by thwarting a Kuwaiti and Indonesia initiative at the Security Council Wednesday evening that would have criticized Israel.
The initiative, known as a press statement, expressed regret over Israel’s decision to suspend a mandate of international observers stationed in the Biblical city of Hebron to protect Palestinians there.
The Temporary International Presence in Hebron, or TIPH, has been in the West Bank city since 1997 and has long faced criticism it is biased against Israel.
A Security Council diplomat confirmed to Fox News that, “the U.S. did not think a press statement was appropriate.” A Security Council press statement needs the consensus of all 15 members, and while not legally binding it does show council unity on any given subject.
The draft statement from the two predominantly Muslim nations, “expressed regret about the unilateral decision by the Israeli Government not to renew the mandate,” and recalled a Security Council resolution in 1994 that called for, “measures to be taken to guarantee the safety of and protection of the Palestinians civilians throughout the occupied territory, including…a temporary international presence.”
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The observer force came into being in 1994 following the murder of 29 Muslim worshippers at the hands of a Jewish extremist, Baruch Goldstein at a site holy to both Jews and Muslims. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution following the massacre.
Indonesia’s Ambassador, Dian Djani, told reporters that he and his Kuwaiti colleague did not want to see a repetition of the 1994 incident and, “to make sure the situation that is already fragile and tense…is not going to get worse.”
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement that the international force has harmed Israel.
“Instead of maintaining order and neutrality, TIPH observers used violence, created friction with the civilian population, and interfered with security forces,” Danon 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. That the Palestinians want to maintain violent observers in Hebron attests to their intentions.”
Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron, told Fox News that for the past 22 years TIPH never brought peace to Hebron and complained about their actions and bias against his community.
“They were found to strike Jewish children on video, puncture Jewish Israeli tires, and also, in general, have a very, very chummy relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian narrative,” he said.
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Hebron has often been the place of tension between Israelis and Palestinians. Among the nearly 1,000 population of Jewish settlers living in the city, some are considered hardliners and have been accused of provoking attacks against Palestinians. The Palestinian population of Hebron is more than 200,000 vs. the 10,000 Jewish population in the surrounding area.
Last year, Israel’s foreign ministry expelled a Swiss member of the TIPH for slapping a 10-year-old Jewish boy in Hebron. Another TIPH observer was expelled for allegedly slashing tires of an Israeli-owned car in Hebron’s Jewish quarter last year.
Fleisher told Fox News that does not mean both sides cannot coexist. He said the Hebron Jewish community has lived in the ancient city for 3,800 years and said that, “Arabs and Jews will be able to work it out…and things are going to be fine and dandy here without TIPF. Instead, it will be even better than it was before.”
The Palestinian Ambassador to the U.N., Riyad Mansour, was not as optimistic and told reporters outside the Security Council that settler violence had risen in Hebron and called the situation, “very alarming.” He said he hoped that, “the Security Council can rise to the level of taking steps to ensure the safety and protection of the civilian population international law calls for.”
Eugene Kontorovich, a professor at George Mason’s Antonin Scalia School of Law specializing in constitutional and international law, told Fox News that international criticism saying Israel ended TIPH is “simply wrong.”
“TIPH ended under its own rules. Moreover, the criticism at the U.N. of Israel’s decision to not renew the mandate discourages Israel from making any further diplomatic agreements with the PA,” he said. “If it gets slammed when it fully adheres to the terms, what’s the point?”
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He added that there was never an intent to make it a permanent institution.
“But diplomatic inertia has kept it in place for over two decades,” Kontorovich said. “The force’s mission has always been one-sided against Israel…They have violated the terms of their mandate in many ways, and it was time to officially end it.”
The foreign ministers of the five nations that contribute to TIPH – Norway, Turkey, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland – said in a statement they were concerned that the decision would, “have a negative impact on the situation.”
Includes reporting by the Associated Press.