When the meeting commenced, Ayalon refused to shake the ambassador’s hand, Cellikol was seated undiplomatically on a low sofa and the Turkish flag, customarily present as such an event, was missing. If the point wasn’t readily understood, Ayalon verbally described the scene to Israeli cameramen present in the office.
What followed, which might have been expected, was a small, virtual war between Turkey and Israel, which led to an Israeli apology.
However, clearly, behind this less than diplomatic rendezvous was more than meets the eye. Only a few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israeli diplomats stationed around the world to “stop turning the other cheek.” At a heads of missions conference in Jerusalem he declared: “The problem with Israeli diplomacy over the years is that it does not do enough to preserve the honor of the State of Israel. Terms like ‘national honor’ have value in the Middle East. There is no need to provoke or exaggerate, but there must not be an attitude of obsequiousness and self-deprecation, and the need to always justify the other side. This is a wrong approach.”
This is exactly the policy Ayalon represented when meeting with Cellikol. And it had little to do with a television show. For the past year, since Operation Lead Cast, Israel-Turkish relations have hit an all time low. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of “inhuman acts” in Gaza and demanded placement of international observers there to prevent Gaza’s “self-destruction.”
ERDOGAN’S SUGGESTION of “international observers” strikes a raw nerve, especially in Hebron. Turkey is one of six countries participating in the Temporary International Observer Force (TIPH) in Hebron. This organization has been actively operating in Hebron for the past 12 years, since the implementation of the “Hebron Accords” between Yasser Arafat and Israel, which divided Hebron into two, unequal parts.
According to the official TIPH mandate, its major functions include:
• providing a feeling of security to the Palestinians of Hebron with their presence;
• helping to promote stability and an appropriate environment conductive to the enhancement of the well-being of the Palestinians of Hebron and their economic development;
• observing the enhancement of peace and prosperity among Palestinians.
The allegations implicit in this mandate are clear. In spite of the fact that the Palestinian Authority now controls 80 percent of Hebron, its Arabs are “insecure” and their lives are abnormal due to the Israeli presence in the city. TIPH has no obligation to observe Arab instigation or violence against Hebron’s Jewish citizens.
Unfortunately, TIPH is far from objective. The organization also partakes in activities outside of the framework of its mandate. Such activities include interference in internal Israeli affairs. For example, following the purchase of Beit Hashalom in Hebron, TIPH head of mission Karl-Henrik Sjursen, in a media release, said: “TIPH urges the IDF to evacuate the settlers from the building to avoid that new facts of the ground are being established… This action of the settlers can be seen by the Palestinians as an unnecessary provocation in an already tense environment. It might have serious consequences for the security situation in the city.”
He later added, “The occupation of the house has not only led to increased violence but also further destabilized the situation in Hebron as a whole. In this respect TIPH again urges the Israeli authorities on all levels to take necessary measures to evict the occupants. In the light of the ongoing violence and the continuing violation of both Israeli and international law, we also encourage the Israeli authorities to evict the settlers occupying the house on Patriarchs’ Hill with no further delay.”
This type of intervention by a foreign body is blatantly negative toward Israel and certainly produces negative impressions in countries around the world, most definitely in the other countries participating in TIPH and the “host countries” – the US and Russia.
IN FEBRUARY 2004, outgoing head of mission Jan Kristensen, in a media interview, accused both Israeli civilians and the IDF of ethnic cleansing in Hebron: “The activity of the settlers and the army in the H-2 area of Hebron is creating an irreversible situation. In a sense, cleansing is being carried out.”
One further example of TIPH’s bias: On November 12, 2000, Mary Robinson, then chairwoman of the UN Council for Human Rights, visited Hebron. While driving in a TIPH vehicle up the hill to the Tel Rumeida neighborhood, her car was shot at. TIPH later examined evidence concerning the attack and concluded: “TIPH received the results of a ballistic expertise carried out by the Danish police. The expertise showed that the shot was fired from a Kalashnikov AK-47 rifle. Moreover, a reconstruction conducted by TIPH personnel in cooperation with the Danish experts clearly designated the origin of the shot: a house in the H1 area, north of Bab al-Zawiya.”
This information was included in the 15th periodic report published by TIPH, but it was not publicized to the public-at-large, leaving many people believing that the attack had been perpetrated by Jewish civilians or IDF personnel serving in Hebron.
The TIPH presence is detrimental, damaging and disadvantageous to the State of Israel. In conducting tours for civilians and diplomats without any Israeli representation, TIPH presents a very one-sided, biased account of Israeli and IDF policies, which only add to the negative propaganda being disseminated internationally.
When Ayalon visited Hebron, in response to a question, he emphasized that the “T” in TIPH stands for temporary, and clarified that the organization’s mandate would not be automatically renewed. His spokesman told The Jerusalem Post that it would not be “rubber stamped,” as had been practiced in the past. Clearly, the logical continuation of the Lieberman-Ayalon doctrine, preserving Israel’s pride against foreign animosity, leads to the conclusion that Israel must end the TIPH mandate in Hebron when the it expires at the end of this month.