By Barak Ravid, Haaretz
October 2, 2009
Israel should consider ousting Norwegian monitors from Hebron due to Oslo's "hostility" toward Israel, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the cabinet Thursday.
An overall reassessment of Israel's relationship with Norway is needed, he argued, and expelling the monitors could be one element of this. The monitors are part of an international observer group, the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. TIPH was introduced into the city in 1994, by agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, after Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Muslim worshipers at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
At a meeting last week with Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, Lieberman protested Oslo's contacts with Hamas, as well as the celebrations Norway is sponsoring in honor of the 100th birthday of writer Knut Hamsun, who supported the Nazis during World War II. Of all the foreign ministers he met with in New York, Lieberman told the cabinet, this meeting was the most difficult, because "the Norwegians take a very hostile line against us."
"It may be the time has come to reassess our relations with them and reexamine our position on matters important to them, like their monitors in Hebron or [Israel's] cooperation with the forum of donor states [to the PA], which they head," Lieberman added.
Although TIPH also includes monitors from Italy, Sweden, Turkey, Denmark and Switzerland, Norway is the group's principal supporter and is effectively in charge of it. The forum of donor states is involved in institution-building in the PA, and until now, Israel has cooperated closely with it.
Tension between Jerusalem and Oslo increased recently after Norway's government pension fund decided to divest from an Israeli company, Elbit.