Eviction of TIPH may violate Oslo agreements
Norway requires Israel to provide security guarantees and continued immunity for the observers in the Palestinian city of Hebron until TIPH is expelled.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informs that the Norwegian-led observation force on the occupied West Bank won’t be renewed.
“The unilateral Israeli decision can mean that the implementation of an important part of the Oslo agreements is interrupted, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs,” Ine Eriksen Søreide (Conservatives), reacts in a statement on Tuesday evening.
“Israeli authorities informed our ambassador to Tel Aviv that Israel wants to end the international observership in Hebron (TIPH),” Søreide elaborates in the first comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) to Netanyahu’s decision.
The force has been led by Norway since it was established 22 years ago. The observer team is authorised by the Oslo agreements and has been renewed every six months by both parties. PLO wants TIPH to be continued.
The current mandate expires on Thursday this week, according to Israeli media. The statement by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not mention any dates for when the withdrawal will be implemented.
The TIPH participating countries require security guarantees from the Israeli authorities, including continued immunity for the observers, until the force is disbanded.
64 TIPH observers
Søreide emphasises that the contributions to TIPH are something Norway provides to Israel and the Palestinians at their behest.
We must, therefore, assume that Israel now says that they no longer see the need for the force to be present in Hebron, while the other party in the conflict wants their presence to continue.
TIPH consists of 64 observers from Norway, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Turkey, as well as 13 local employees. The news that they have to pack their bags was as a surprise for the leader of the force, former high-ranking Police Officer in Oslo, Einar H. Aas.
“I relate to that the mandate is ending. I further refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Aas tells NTB.
Aas became acquainted with Netanyahu’s decision through media. The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv and the other TIPH countries have met with the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs on Tuesday. Norwegian representatives have also met with Palestinian authorities regarding the decision.
If the decision to chuck TIPH means that Israel withdraws from the Hebron agreement as well, is unclear. That was signed by Netanyahu and then Leader of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, in 1997. Israeli forces withdrew from about 80 per cent of Hebron as a result of it.
Palestine has asked the UN to deploy a peacekeeping force in East Jerusalem and on the West Bank, which was occupied by Israel after the attack on it in 1967. The United Nations has not yet responded, but the High Commissioner for Human Rights stresses that “Israel as an occupying force is obliged to protect civilian Palestinians from violent settlers”.
In December, the Haaretz newspaper revisited the content of a report by TIPH stating that Israeli settlers and soldiers have exposed the Palestinians in Hebron for systematic and regular harassment and abuse over the past 20 years.
Israeli authorities refused to comment on the charges, but the report may have been the last nail in the coffin for the observer team.
© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today