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Mitchell Team Sneaks Up On Temple Mount

Monday, August 27, 2001 | Tag Cloud Tags: ,

Israel's Foreign Ministry was "shocked" to learn that members of the US-led Mitchell fact-finding committee had visited the Temple Mount on Sunday without Israeli knowledge and accompanied by Islamic Waqf officials.

Israeli officials said that this was a "gross violation" of previous understandings, according to which the committee was to visit the Temple Mount only with an Israeli escort. However, Waqf figures refused to meet with them under such conditions, and so the committee members decided to ascend the Mount without informing Israel.

The clandestine tour was made by the eight-man technical staff here to facilitate the committee's work. They have been in the country for a week and a half to prepare for the arrival of former US Senator George Mitchell and other leading team members. Israel has demanded that the committee's work be coordinated with it, and that the committee or its technical staff not "run around on its own" gathering evidence.

Adnan Husseini, head of the Waqf in Jerusalem, said yesterday that the technical staff fully coordinated the visit to the Temple Mount with Waqf officials. Husseini said the visit lasted an hour and he accompanied the staff during the entire visit. The Waqf leader said there was no need for an Israeli presence, and had there been, the visit would have been cancelled. Husseini described for the team the Palestinian version of the events that took place during the September visit of Likud leader Ariel Sharon to the compound, ISRAEL RADIO reported Monday.

The Mitchell Committee was formed after the Sharm e-Sheikh summit in October to investigate the causes of the latest wave of violence. The investigation was conditional on a cessation of violence first, but the US later convinced Israel that the committee should commence its work to help reduce Palestinian violence.

Just a day after the Temple Mount visit was made known to the Foreign Ministry, officials had to grapple with another "investigation," this time a UN Human Rights Commission inquiry, the product of a UN resolution which Israel termed "one-sided."

The Foreign Ministry on Tuesday directed its representatives in Geneva not to have anything to do with the committee, which is slated to arrive here shortly to investigate alleged Israeli human-rights violations. The establishment of the committee was one of the operative decisions following an October resolution condemning Israel for "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity" in its dealing with the current fighting.

Mordechai Yedid, the Foreign Ministry's deputy director-general for UN and international organizations, said there is no reason for yet another international committee. Moreover, he said that Israel has the moral right not to cooperate with the committee, since a majority of those on the Human Rights Commission - including a majority of the world's developed countries - voted against or abstained from voting on the resolution. Also, many of those who voted for it - countries like Cuba, Sudan, Morocco, and Pakistan - are themselves violators of human rights.

Furthermore, Yedid added that one of the three members of the panel, Richard Falk, a professor of international law at Princeton University, wrote an article in the winter issue of "Middle East Journal" in which he demonstrated a strong bias against Israel. "Throughout the occupation and very visibly during the two uprisings, Israel has reacted to Palestinian resistance with the excessive use of lethal force, including the targeting of civilians and children," Falk wrote.

The resolution establishing this committee said that its membership "should be based on the principles of independence and objectivity, to gather and compile information on violations of human rights and acts which constitute grave breaches of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territory by the Israeli occupying power."

In a related matter, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron met Tuesday afternoon with Muslim religious leaders. They will discuss the possibility of establishing a joint committee that will attempt to find ways to deal with the matter of the Temple Mount.

Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

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Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Mitchell Team Sneaks Up On Temple Mount