The US on Tuesday began imposing visa bans on people involved in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Washington officials said, after many calls for Israel to do more to prevent violence by Jewish settlers.
A new State Department visa restriction policy targets “individuals believed to have participated in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including by committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unreasonably restrict citizens’ access to basic services and basic needs,” Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken said in a statement.
President Joe Biden and other senior US officials have repeatedly warned that Israel must act to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. Attacks there have increased in recent months as Jewish settlements have expanded, and then increased again after the October 7 attacks by Hamas in Israel.
Blinken made clear to Israeli officials during a visit last week that “they must do more to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those responsible accountable,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters in press conference after the announcement.
Palestinian leaders must also do more to curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, he added.
Reading Israeli forces surround the town of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza
The first bans under the new policy will be imposed on Tuesday, and more determinations will be made in the coming days, Miller said.
“We expect that ultimately this action will affect dozens of individuals and potentially their family members,” Miller said, adding that any Israeli with an existing U.S. visa who was targeted will be notified that their visa has been revoked.
Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank, which the Palestinians want as the core of an independent state. He has built Jewish settlements there that most countries consider illegal. Israel disputes this and cites historical and biblical ties to the land.
Asked about the violence by the settlers at a press conference on Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galand said that no one but the Israeli authorities has the right to use force.
“Israel is a rule of law. The right to use force belongs only to those certified to do so by the government,” he said.
Miller said Israel had taken some steps to hold people responsible for the violence in the West Bank, such as placing them in administrative detention, but US officials believe they should be prosecuted.
Washington’s move on Tuesday “does not obviate the need for the government of Israel to take its own actions, and we will continue to be clear with them about that,” he said.
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