US announces visa bans after warning Israel on West Bank settler violence

The US Department of State has said that it will impose visa restrictions on Israeli settlers involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the occupied West Bank.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the move on Tuesday, one day after the State Department said that Israel has not taken sufficient steps to address settler attacks that have driven many Palestinians off their land.

“Today, the State Department is implementing a new visa restriction policy targeting individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities,” Blinken said.

President Joe Biden and other senior US officials have warned repeatedly that Israel must act to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank, which has increased since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

“We have underscored to the Israeli government the need to do more to hold accountable extremist settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank,” Blinken said.

Blinken did not announce individual visa bans, but department spokesman Matthew Miller said the bans would be implemented starting Tuesday and would cover “dozens” of settlers and their families, with more to come. He did not give a number and didn’t identify any of those targeted due to confidentiality reasons.

Israeli settler violence has long targeted Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and the attacks have surged over the last year, as Israel’s far-right government, which itself includes ultranationalist settlers, signals support.Settler attacks have escalated further amid the continuing war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian armed group Hamas, which launched a deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed approximately 1,200 people and took roughly 240 others hostage.

After the attack, Israel launched a devastating assault on Gaza which has killed more than 16,200 people and displaced more than 1.5 million others, according to Palestinian officials.

Since the October 7 attack, Israeli settlers have killed at least nine Palestinians in the West Bank, three times as many as in all of 2022, and attacks on Palestinian villages and farmers have become commonplace.

While Palestinian attacks on Israeli settlers and soldiers in the West Bank typically meet harsh reprisals by Israeli forces, accountability for attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, which often take place under the gaze of Israeli soldiers, is exceedingly rare.

Palestinians have described settler violence as one part of a larger Israeli effort to force them from their land.

In 2018, Israel passed a controversial bill known as the nation-state law that, among other things, called Jewish settlement efforts a “national value” that the state would “encourage and promote”.

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