The United States has initiated visa bans targeting individuals involved in violence within the Israeli-occupied West Bank. This decision comes after repeated appeals for Israel to take more decisive action in preventing violence by Jewish settlers. The new visa restriction policy, announced by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, aims to address actions undermining peace, security, or stability in the region.
State Department’s Stance
Secretary Blinken stated that the visa restrictions would apply to those believed to have committed acts of violence or taken actions restricting civilians’ access to essential services in the West Bank. This move highlights the U.S. government’s commitment to curbing violence and ensuring stability in the region.
Calls for Israeli Accountability
President Joe Biden and other senior U.S. officials have consistently urged Israel to take concrete measures to halt violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. The recent surge in attacks, particularly following the October 7 Hamas assaults on Israel, prompted the U.S. administration to take a firm stance.
During a recent visit, Secretary Blinken conveyed to Israeli officials the imperative need to address extremist violence against Palestinians and emphasised holding those responsible accountable. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller highlighted that Israel must take more substantial actions to address the issue, beyond the steps already taken.
While addressing the issue of violence, the U.S. government also called upon Palestinian leaders to do more in curbing attacks against Israelis in the West Bank. The emphasis on mutual responsibility reflects a broader commitment to fostering stability and peace in the region.
Implementation of Visa Bans
The first round of visa bans under the new policy was set to be imposed on Tuesday, with more designations expected in the coming days. Miller stated that the action could impact dozens of individuals and potentially their family members. Notably, any Israeli with an existing U.S. visa who falls under the new restrictions will be notified of the revocation.
Background on West Bank Situation
Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has maintained control over the West Bank, a territory that Palestinians envision as the core of their independent state. The construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, considered illegal by most countries, has been a longstanding point of contention. Israel argues historical and biblical ties to the land, disputing the characterization of the settlements as illegal.
In response to questions about settler violence, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant asserted that the right to use violence belongs solely to those certified by the government. He emphasised Israel as a state of law, implying that violence by non-state actors, including settlers, would not be condoned.
Miller acknowledged that Israel has taken some measures, such as administrative detention, to address individuals responsible for violence in the West Bank. However, U.S. officials believe that prosecution is necessary, and the visa bans do not negate the expectation for Israel to take further actions. The U.S. government is committed to maintaining open and clear communication with Israel on this matter.