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Knesset Conference Vows Solidarity with Hebron

Over 50 lawmakers sign a declaration supporting Hebron reflecting consensus in Israeli society.

24.12.18, 22:08
Over 50 Members of Knesset, government ministers and elected officials gathered at the Knesset in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish community of Hebron. Organized by the Knesset Land of Israel Lobby, the conference culminated in the signing of a special declaration of solidarity with the Jews of Hebron.
 
The text read, "We, the undersigned, hereby express deep solidarity with the roots of the Jewish people in Hebron and the support of the Jewish community in Hebron that has clung to the city despite all the difficulties. We declare an unambiguous commitment to the continued existence, security and prosperity of Hebron as the city of both our forefathers and children."
 
The organizers, Members of Knesset Yoav Kisch of the Likud Party and Betzalel Smotrich of the Jewish Home party arranged the event to precede a conference arranged by the Meretz party which is calling for the removal of Jewish residents from Hebron. The planned "Hebron First" event promotes the idea that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are an obstacle to peace with the Palestinian Authority.
 
Those in attendance included: Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Minister of Education Uri Ariel, Minister of Housing Yoav Galant, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Environment Ze'ev Elkin, Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri, Minister of Science Ofir Akunis, Minister of Social Equality Gila Gamliel, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely, Deputy Minister of Defense Eli Ben Dahan, MK Avi Dichter (Likud), MK Amir Ohana (Likud), MK Osnat Mark (Likud), MK Oren Hazan (Likud), MK Miki Zohar (Likud), MK Moti Yogev (Jewish Home), MK Nurit Koren (Likud), MK Sharren Haskel (Likud), MK Nissan Slomiansky (Jewish Home), MK Michael Malchieli (Shas), Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan, Benjamin Regional chairman Yisrael Gantz, Yesha Council chairman Hananel Dorani, deputy Yesha Council chairman Yigal Dilmoni, Kiryat Arba council chairman Eliyahu Liebman, Hebron Municipal Administration chairman Avraham Ben Yosef, director of the Jewish community of Hebron committee Uri Karzen, Hebrew-language spokesman for the Jewish community Noam Arnon, international spokesman for the Jewish community Yishai Fleisher, former MK and long-time Hebron resident Orit Strook, and other guests.
 
Knesset Conference Celebrate Hebron Jews, calls for TIPH Ouster

The pressure to end TIPH's presence in Hebron is growing following a Knesset conference and a leaked confidential report. Two incidents of attacks on Jewish residents this year have brought the group into the spotlight. Since the 1997 Hebron Accords, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron has patrolled the city in order to protect Palestinian Authority residents. Two previous incarnations of TIPH existed in 1994 and 1996. On Monday a group of Members of Knesset, government ministers and Jewish Hebron residents held a conference at the Knesset to celebrate the community. Billed as a show of solidarity for the Hebron settlers, the issue of TIPH was on the top of the agenda. The conference was hosted by Members of Knesset Yoav Kisch (Likud Party) and Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home Party). In attendance was Avraham Ben Yosef, head of Hebron's Municipal Administration, and Orit Strook, a former Knesset member and long-time Hebron resident. Since leaving Knesset, Strook has been working behind the scenes for the community. She praised the Knesset's new zoning plans for the Hezekiah quarter and the old wholesale market (Mitzpe Shalhevet), as well as the new Tel Hevron archaeological site. "They also responded appropriately to UNESCO's hallucinatory decision that Hebron is solely a Palestinian heritage city," she told Israel National News. The conference was scheduled a day before a conference hosted by the Meretz Party calling for the expulsion of Jews from Hebron. Strook said those who call for the removal of Jews from Hebron from Jews are on the extreme fringes of society. "Meretz apparently smells new elections in the air and wants to show their constituents that they are doing something, but our conference will be attended by Members of Knesset, ministers and party leaders proving we have a consensus when it comes to support and that the majority of Israelis have no problem with Jews living in Hebron," she said. TIPH ACCUSED OF ATTACKING JEWISH RESIDENTS The center of attention was on TIPH, which has it's mandate renewed every six months. Originally concieved by the United Nations to keep the peace between Jewish and Arab residents, the foreign observers in their tan vests and white cars have been accused of blatant bias against Israel. Acording to their official website, part of their mission is to "promote by its presence a feeling of security to the Palestinians of Hebron" and "to help promote stability and an appropriate environment conducive to the enhancement of the well-being of the Palestinians of Hebron and their economic development." They also "monitor Israeli settlers." Observers come from Norway, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and Turkey. In July, a TIPH observer was sent back to his home country after being caught on video slapping a ten-year-old Jewish boy in the face. The observer had been participating in a Breaking the Silence tour of the city, something not allowed according to TIPH's protocols. Later that month, it was revealed that a TIPH member was filmed puncturing the tire of a Jewish resident's vehicle. CONFIDENTIAL TIPH REPORT BLASTS ISRAEL This month, a TIPH report severely criticizing Israel and condemning the Jewish civilian presence in the city was released. The leaked report has resulted in more backlash against the group. The confidential report was quoted in part by reporter Uri Blau in Haaretz newspaper. The article entitled "Confidential Report Based on 20 Years of Monitoring Claims: Israel Regularly Breaks International Law in Hebron" complains that Palestinian Authority residents face restrictions in the Israeli controlled side of the city, but fails to mention that the 80% of Hebron the PA controls is completely off-limits to Israelis. It also attacked the State of Israel for opening the Tel Hevron archaeological garden, because it highlights the Jewish historical connection to the city. No mention is made of Arab terrorist attacks against Israelis. The paper quoted an unnamed diplomat who has seen the report, but the full 100-page document is confidential. The writer interviewed a member of TIPH who stated "TIPH reports are not for publication. They are transferred to both sides based on the understanding that they will not be passed on to other parties, certainly not the media. Therefore, we have no intention of commenting on partial information or any other publications about this issue." After the Haaretz expose on the TIPH report, the issue was covered by multiple pro-Palestinian media outlets such as the International Middle East Media Center, and the Palestine News Network. Long-time Haaretz reporter Uri Blau gained notoriety in 2009 for publishing illegally obtained classified Israel Defense Force documents that dealt with how the army carried out preventative operations on terrorists. Upon the arrest of the former IDF soldier who gave him the information, he fled the country. Upon his return he agreed to a plea bargain and served 4 months community service for possession of classified IDF documents. AMIRA HASS SLANDER CASE This is not the first time Haaretz newspaper has faced legal action. In June 2001, veteran Haaretz journalist Amira Hass was ordered to pay the Jewish Community of Hebron 250,000 shekels in damages after the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court ruled she had published slander. Hass published unsubstantiated accounts that local Jewish residents defiled the dead body of a terrorist who has just been killed by the IDF in front of a Jewish apartment complex. Hass wrote that Jewish residents kicked, spit and otherwise abused the corpse as it lay outside Beit Hadassah, a residential Jewish building. The Jewish residents initially asked for a written apology but when Haaretz refused, they sued, accusing them of falsely reporting the story with malicious intent. TV footage of the incident proved Haaretz's account was false. Judge Rachel Shalev-Gartel ruled that Hass had damaged the community's reputation. HAARETZ ARTICLE GENERATES BACKLASH The new Haaretz article about TIPH is generating a backlash and the renewed focus on the organziation may bring about its ouster from Hebron. My Israel chairwoman Sarah Haetzni-Cohen, who grew up in Hebron, recently responded to the issue in Makor Rishon newspaper stating, "Suddenly, a confidential report finds its way to Haaretz. How? I can only guess. And there -- the usual lies: Israel violates international law, violates freedom of worship, etc. They reach foreign representatives and diplomats through their reports and countless briefings and tours. We pay the price." In addition to the leaked report, this month it was reported that TIPH has been running joint tours of Hebron with the Breaking the Silence NGO for groups of diplomats and left-wing activists, in violation of its mandate. Unlike in the incident of the Jewish child being slapped, this was not the case of a single TIPH representative taking part in a tour, but pre-planned excursions with trained activists. In response to the revelation, MK Kisch and MK Smotrich stated, "following the exposure of TIPH’s ties with Breaking the Silence and the active and obsessive involvement of the observer force in pro-Palestinian, anti-Semitic, defamatory and false propaganda against Israel — in complete contravention of the force’s mandate — we again call upon the government to do what is needed and announce the end of the TIPH mandate in Hebron already at the end of this December." BANK FRAUD AND EMBEZZLEMENT This month it was revealed that TIPH has also been accused of bank fraud and other crimes. ‎TIPH’s former chief procurement and financial officer Bennet Nygaard Solum testified that “TIPH fails to meet its own code of ethics. It ‎disregards Israeli and Palestinian law in Hebron and ‎prefers to protect its own members from any ‎allegations of wrongdoing.” In his affidavit, Nygaard Solum‎ admitted he had taken ‎part of such ‎cover-ups. "As the financial officer, I investigated fraud ‎allegations against three local employees who were ‎accused of drawing checks from the Arab Bank in ‎Hebron. The case centered around checks that were ‎not delivered to a supermarket that was our main ‎supplier,” Nygaard Solum stated in an affidavit. Local ‎employees embezzled the money but "TIPH’s legal adviser instructed me not to mention ‎this incident in a hearing we had in 2011,” he said.‎ He also spoke of a 2009 previous fraud case which involved "incorrect sums in ‎procurement orders, which didn’t match what was ‎actually received by the purchasing department. For ‎example, an invoice would say we ordered 40 [cartons ‎of] milk but only 20 would arrive," he said. ‎ ‎"The difference was divvied up between the local ‎employee and the supermarket. The procurement ‎officer at the time knew about the fraud but didn’t ‎report it to his superiors, so not as to lose his job," ‎he explained. Nygaard Solum stated that he knew of the incident in which a TIPH member punctured the tire of Jewish resident's car, and that "TIPH’s deputy commander lied ‎to the police and said he didn’t know the observer ‎who did it, when, in fact, he did, in order to ‎protect TIPH." MEMBERS OF KNESSET CALL FOR TIPH'S OUSTER In response, elected officials sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him not to renew TIPH's mandate. "It has been almost 22 years since TIPH was deployed ‎in Hebron, during which the observer force was ‎discovered to be biased, in the full sense of the ‎word, undermining IDF soldiers and the State of ‎Israel,” letter read. ‎“While the Jewish community in Hebron has suffered ‎thousands of terrorist attacks, TIPH observers have ‎been careful to monitor and report only on the ‎plight of the Palestinians in the city, and contrary ‎to their mandate, they host foreign diplomats on ‎anti-Israeli propaganda tours in the city, and ‎participate in activities organized by the boycott, ‎divestment and sanctions movement.” The observers “regularly harass the Jewish residents ‎of the city and their children, and recently, two ‎violent incidents in which they were involved were ‎captured on camera. After 22 years, the time has come to bring TIPH’s ‎mandate, which was always intended to be temporary, ‎to an end.” The letter was signed by MKs Yoav Kisch, Amir ‎Ohana, Nava Boker, Yehudah Glick, Sharren Haskel, ‎Miki Zohar Nurit Koren, ‎Bezalel Smotrich, Shuli Mualem-Rafaeli, Nissan ‎Slomiansky, Yinon Azoulay, Yoav Ben ‎Tzur, Yakov Margi, Michael Malkieli and Dan Saida.‎ Likud MK Anat Berko and Deputy ‎Foreign ‎Minister Tzipi Hotovely had previously called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to explore terminating TIPH's mandate. Karin Aggestam, a fomer TIPH observer and author of the 2001 journal article From theory to practice: Temporary International Presence in Hebron distinguishes between whatshe calls neutrality and impartiality. According to Aggestam, TIPH is not expected to be neutral, since she interprets its mandate as to monitor the welfare of the Palestinian Authority residents.

Posted by Hebron Jewish Community and Biblical Heritage Site on Monday, December 24, 2018
MK Yoav Kisch opened the conference by stating, "Elections come and go, but Hebron is forever. Hebron is the heart of the Jewish community, an integral part of the land of Israel and the people of Israel. We will certainly continue to strengthen sovereignty where our patriarchs and matriarchs are buried. At the end of December we have to decide whether to extend TIPH's mandate. I want to issue the call -- it's time to send them back to the countries they came from. They do nothing but damage. TIPH's mission was over long ago," he stated, in reference to the Temporary International Presence in Hebron.
 
In recent weeks, TIPH have come under greater and greater scrutiny. Founded in the mid-1990s, the foreign observers patrol the streets of Hebron to report on what they see as any potential violations of international law perpetrated by the Israel Defense Forces or Israeli civilians.
 
A leaked document obtained by Haaretz newspaper revealed that TIPH blasted Israel for opening the Tel Hevron archaeological park because it focused too much on the Jewish connection to the city. It also accused Israel of anti-Arab discrimination because there are separate Muslim and Jewish entrances to the Tomb of Machpela. The TIPH report made no mention of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Arabs against Jewish residents.
 
Earlier this year, a TIPH observer was sent to his home country after being caught on video slapping a 10-year-old Jewish Hebron resident in the face. The previous year a TIPH member was caught puncturing the tire on a vehicle owned by a  local Jewish resident.
 
In addition to a blatant anti-Israel bias, the group has even been accused of bank fraud and embezzlement by a former member. See full article for details.
 
Co-organizer MK Smotrich stated, "Hebron is a litmus test. What is happening in Hebron shows our Jewish pulse." He elaborated, that those who seek the eviction of the Jewish community "understand very well that if Hebron grows and develops, the entire settlement enterprise will grow and develop, so they invest in harming Hebron. But they will continue to shout and complain while we will continue to build, reach the masses and connect with our roots."
 
MK Smotrich's mention of building references the two projects approved by the Knesset this year -- the Hezekiah quarter and the Mitzpe Shalhevet neighborhood in the old wholesale market. These major developments in addition to the Tel Hevron archaeological garden made for a busy and newsworthy year for the city. 
 
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein stated, "anyone who has seen the tens of thousands of Jews on Shabbat Chayei Sarah understands what Hebron means for the people of Israel. They say there are only 800 Jewish residents of Hebron, but on Shabbat Chayei Sarah there are over 30,000 visitors -- young, old, Ashkenazi, Sefardi, religious and non-religious." He added that the upcoming Hebron First conference seeks to make the city "Judenrein," a German phrase from World War II meaning "free of Jews." 
 
 
Edelstein personally attended the weekend celebration which takes place every year during the reading of the Torah portion that describes Abraham's purchase of the cave of Machpela for his wife Sarah. Edelstein is planning to attend a tour of the city in the near future with the Im Tirtzu college group. The student organization has a strong showing at the Knesset event.
 
Minister Elkin discussed this year's UNESCO declaration which called the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron an endangered Palestinian Heritage site The vote resulted in both Israel and the United States leaving the United Nations body. He echoes a call by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reallocate the money meant for dues to UNESCO to be used for a museum of Jewish heritage in Hebron.
 
MK Koren stated, "my parents were among the founders of Kiryat Arba. From there, there rest of the communities in Judea and Samaria developed." Both she and MK Malchieli mentioned the need for handicapped access to the Tomb of Machpela.
 
MK Haskel highlighted women who in recent history helped repopulate the city. She singled out former MK Orit Strook who was in attendance, and mentioned Sarah Nachshon, one of the first of the modern residents. She also briefly told the story of the women of Beit Hadassah in the late 1970s and their struggle to raise their children in the historic Jewish quarter of the city. MK Haskel praised the plans to build more schools and a hotel.
 
MK Dichter stated, "even secular people understand the importance of Hebron." He highlighted a major issue as being accessibility. Although new bus lines were added to the Egged bus company's routes, MK Dicther said more could be done. "We made the Tomb of Rachel easy to get to. We have to do that for Hebron, so that no one will think twice if its safe and convenient to travel."
 
Other lawmakers agreed that action must be taken to enhance Hebron before new elections. There was a consensus that the mandate for TIPH should not be renewed and that the presence of a foreign watchdog group only exacerbated tensions between Jewish and Arab residents. 
 
 
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Knesset Conference in Solidarity with Hebron | 51 Images
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