On 28 January 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu decided not to extend the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH), the body tasked with observing the situation around the Israeli settlement in Hebron following the Hebron Protocol signed between Netanyahu and Arafat in 1997. The decision, which drew a series of international condemnations, including a UN Security Council condemnation that was blocked by a US veto, came following a campaign of settlers and right-wing organizations demanding the removal of observers on the pretext that they create friction, harass soldiers and even harm settlers.
About a year after the decision, following a petition by the Movement for Freedom of Information to the Jerusalem District Court, the police report that was the official document presented to the Prime Minister before his decision, reveals that the settlers’ claims were not really true, and that the decision was made solely to respond to the settlers’ pressure.
Peace Now: “What is revealed here is almost unbelievable. Apparently, the only reason for the government’s decision to go back on an international agreement and damage Israel’s foreign relations and image by deporting TIPH was to placate demands from settlers and right-wing organizations.
The police report revealed that the right-wing campaign was false, and that the “friction” on the ground was not caused by the international observers but rather by settlers who attacked them. What is left from all the accusations is the discomfort from TIPH’s (confidential) reports. However, expelling the observers from Hebron in order to avoid their criticism only proves that Israel knows that the harsh measures it takes in order to protect few hundreds of settlers among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Hebron are a shame to Israel.”
Download the full police report on TIPH (in Hebrew) – click here.
Background of TIPH
The first TIPH (Temporary International Presence in Hebron) delegation arrived in Hebron after the massacre in the Tomb of the Patriarchs carried out by the Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein in 1994, and it operated for a limited number of months. In the Hebron Protocol signed between PM Netanyahu and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in January 1997, it was agreed by the parties that a team of international observers would operate in Hebron and oversee the observance of human rights and the implementation of the Hebron Protocol.
The force was made up of observers from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Turkey and Switzerland and was funded by these countries. Under the Hebron Protocol, and following Israel’s insistence, it was agreed that the TIPH reports would remain confidential and forwarded to both parties and to the TIPH member countries only, with the aim of improving the implementation of the agreement and safeguarding human rights in the region. According to what is agreed every six months, both parties are required to renew the TIPH mandate.
Removing the Observers from Hebron
In recent years, and especially in 2018, Hebron settlers and right-wing organizations like Im Tirzu ran an extensive public campaign demanding the removal of TIPH from Hebron. The campaign included publications in the media and on the Internet purporting that the observers create friction, attack soldiers and settlers, and harm the settlement in Hebron.
Following the campaign, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan asked the police to prepare a report on TIPH’s activities in Hebron. On 17 January 2019, the media reported that the police report, submitted to the prime minister, stated that “Hebron observers deliberately create friction.” A few days later, on 28 January, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided not to renew the TIPH mandate.
The police report remained unpublished, and only following a petition filed by the Movement for Freedom of Information, on behalf of Peace Now, was the police document revealed (for more on the petition see below).
Police Report on TIPH – A superficial report with no real findings
The revealed police document comprises a total of three pages. Page one and a half is dedicated to the background on the activities of observers, their powers and key events that occurred in the context of TIPH during their years in Hebron.
Among other things, it reads: “The organization is meant to improve the sense of security of Palestinian residents in Hebron […] to help the city’s economic development […] encouraging small projects, such as donations to establish a sports and youth center,” etc.
As for TIPH’s reports, the police document says: “The observers are producing reports of events that in their view constitute an exception and a breach of the Hebron Protocol. These reports should be forwarded to the parties. As of 2010, the delegation is also examining the conduct of the Palestinian mechanisms, but most of the references in the organization’s reports are to: 1. Settlers activity; 2. Palestinian behavior towards observers; 3. Improper IDF behavior toward observers; 4. Lack of access to essential services; 5. Freedom of movement; 6. Conflicts; 7. Restrictions, delays and checks.”
The second part of the report is devoted to “exceptional events.” Despite the settlers’ claims over the years, especially in the intense campaign that preceded the removal of TIPH under the false pretense that the observers were acting violently and aggressively towards the settlers, only three cases were presented in the police report. Two of them dealt with settler attacks against TIPH personnel.
Only one incident indicates a case in which a member of TIPH allegedly slapped one of the settlers’ children who threw something (stone or egg or water) toward a tour of Breaking the Silence. The same observer was treated quickly and was “expelled from the country as a punitive act,” as the move is defined in the police report. That was the only exceptional case in the police report where a TIPH observer was the culprit.
The final section of the report is devoted to “insights” that are hard to understand on what they are based and how they relate to the information presented in the report:
A. “The members of the delegation [TIPH] are interrupting and confronting the soldiers of the crossings at regular centers about the procedure for examining and treating the Palestinian population.” [What are the disturbances or confrontations, what exactly do the observes do in the crossings? the report doesn’t give even one example.]
B. “Every day, events of friction are recorded by the ARBL officer in the Judea Brigade (the information is not forwarded to the Israel Police for reference, so we have no supplementary details).” [That is, the police do not really know what is going on in the field, and what are the events of friction – and what is known to the police and shown in the report actually indicates instances where the settlers are creating the friction and attacking the TIPH people].
C. “The members of the delegation are highly paid and seem to be trying to justify their activity and presence in the area by situations that reflect friction and handling incidents. The reports they fill out create a sense in the field that they prevent friction and violent or offensive activity by Jews against Palestinians.” [Meaning, according to the police report, the observers are over-motivated and therefore … they write reports (!). It’s worth mentioning that the TIPH reports are confidential, so it makes no sense to say that “the reports they fill out create friction on the ground” – perhaps the intention is that the reports create an impression on the observers that they prevent friction – but it is unclear what is wrong with that].
D. “Palestinians are exploiting the organization and its political views to file false complaints against the military and police for human rights violations, assaults, and violence. Some of the complaints are being investigated through the DCO for examination and response, and some are being concentrated in the Judea and Samaria District (of the police).”
[If the intention is that Palestinians make false claims themselves, then it is not about TIPH, but if TIPH is basing its reports on false information transmitted by Palestinians (note that even here, the report does not claim that TIPH is issuing false reports), and this information comes to the police as a “complaint”, then there is a police investigation procedure designed to look into such allegations, and there should not be any problem with that].
Thus, it is this thin document, with only a description of three cases, and “insights” that have no basis in the report itself, which led the Israeli prime minister to decide to remove TIPH from Hebron.
From this report, the clear picture emerged that no significant problem had arisen as a result of TIPH activity that could have caused it to be removed from Hebron. At most, it was a problem of disaffection of settlers and possibly the military and police.
Ultimately, the result of the removal of observers from Hebron, which violates an international agreement signed by Israel, in fact harmed Israel’s image and now serves as proof that Israel has something to hide in its conduct in Hebron.
Attempts to prevent information from being disclosed
Following media reports on the police report, the Movement for Freedom of Information on behalf of Peace Now appealed to the Ministry of Public Security for a request under the Freedom of Information Act to receive the report and its related documents. The police and the Ministry of Public Security refused the request, claiming it was a confidential document. Subsequently, a petition was filed by Attorney Yishai Sarid in the Jerusalem District Court, and in response to a proper petition, the police disclosed the police report but refused to reveal two additional documents, for which it was stated that they were presented only to officials within the police and are internal documents, which should not be disclosed and also contain intelligence information.
The court reviewed the internal documents and on 11 December 2019 the judge recommended that the petition be withdrawn, which implies that the chance of obtaining the documents is extremely slim. Subsequently, the petition was withdrawn by agreement.
To download the police report (in Hebrew) – click here