Washington wants West Jerusalem to hold “extremist settlers” accountable for attacks against Palestinians, the State Department has said
The US has introduced visa restrictions for those involved in the oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank, the US State Department said in a statement on Tuesday. Washington advised Israel to “do more” to protect Palestinians in the area and to punish anyone involved in violent attacks against civilians or undue restriction of their access to basic amenities, it added.
While the previous US administration of Donald Trump took a more lenient position on the issue, the State Department under President Joe Biden has criticized Israeli settlement policy in the West Bank. In 2021, Washington said it “strongly opposes” the practice and, in May 2023, added that it was “deeply troubled” by the expansion of “illegal” settlement activity. Until now, however, it had not taken any specific action on the issue.
On Tuesday, the State Department announced that it would implement a new visa restriction policy “targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank.” Immediate family members of such people might also be affected by the measure, it added.
The Israeli government needs to “do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in the statement. He added that his agency was engaging with Israeli leadership “to make clear that Israel must take additional measures to protect Palestinian civilians from extremist attacks.”
Washington is also working with the Palestinian Authority to make it “do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis,” the statement said, adding that violence in the region harms both sides.
In 2020, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that it was Israel’s choice if it wanted to occupy the West Bank, ignoring the continued illegality of the settlements under international law.
In mid-November, Politico reported that the Biden administration was ready to clamp down on Israeli settler violence in the West Bank. The list of possible measures named by the paper included visa bans and potential other sanctions. According to the media outlet, the White House demanded the State Department and the Treasury develop “policy options” for action against those behind violent attacks in the West Bank.
The Treasury has not yet announced any measures so far.
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