The United States on Tuesday announced new visa restrictions on “individuals involved in undermining peace, security or stability in the occupied West Bank,” acting on U.S. President Joe Biden’s criticism of attacks on Palestinians by extremist Israeli settlers in the volatile region.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the Biden administration has “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.”
“As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable. Last week in Israel, I made clear that the United States is ready to take action using our own authorities.”
8 Palestinians killed by settlers
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Monday that since October 7, at least eight Palestinians in the West Bank have been killed by settlers. The U.N. agency said it has recorded 314 attacks by settlers that have resulted in Palestinian casualties, damage to Palestinian-owned property or both. One-third of the attacks included threats with firearms, including shootings, and in nearly half of the attacks, the settlers were accompanied or actively supported by Israeli forces.
Blinken added that the administration is pressuring both Israeli and Palestinian leadership to curb attacks by their respective extremists.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said this restriction could affect “dozens” of individuals and their families.
“The department is pursuing initial action against individuals pursuant to this visa restriction policy,” he said.
Muslim Americans increasingly discontented
The move coincides with growing discontent from some vocal Muslim Americans, who last week unveiled a nationwide pressure campaign, #AbandonBiden, over what they see as the administration’s failure to curb the actions of Israeli forces in their mission to eradicate the militant group Hamas.
On Tuesday, a participant in that campaign criticized Blinken for what he deemed as a “purposely vague” statement in that it did not more overtly condemn Israeli settlers.
The movement, which aims to withhold support for Biden’s reelection campaign, shares criticisms with the prominent Council on American-Islamic Relations, which on Tuesday accused the Biden administration of “actively participating in Israel’s ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Palestinian people.”
Biden did not mention the visa policy in his public remarks on Tuesday, instead focusing on disturbing reports that Hamas militants brutally assaulted their female hostages after their stunning October 7 assault on Israeli civilians. That group, which the U.S. designates as a terror group, holds the destruction of Israel as central to its ideology.
“Ending violence against women and sexual assault has been one of the causes of my life,” Biden said, speaking at a campaign event in Boston.
“But the world can’t just look away at what’s going on. It’s on all of us — government, international organizations, civil society and businesses — to forcefully condemn the sexual violence of Hamas terrorists without equivocation. Without equivocation, without exception.”
But as Biden and other top U.S. officials have repeatedly said, an end to this grinding conflict will require political will from both sides.
“Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility to uphold stability in the West Bank,” Blinken said. “Instability in the West Bank both harms the Israeli and Palestinian people and threatens Israel’s national security interests. Those responsible for it must be held accountable.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.