US to clamp down on Israeli settler violence: Report

US President Joe Biden has ordered his administration to draw up a schedule of sanctions against Israelis who attack or harass Palestinians in the West Bank, Politico has reported, citing a confidential document. US is the biggest supporter of Israel, politically and militarily.

A Cabinet memo was read out to the outlet by a senior US official. It had been sent to top Biden administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, directing their departments “to develop policy options for expeditious action against those responsible for the conduct of violence in the West Bank”. A list of possible restrictions is said to include visa bans.

The US may impose restrictions specifically on persons who “have directly or indirectly engaged in actions or policies that threaten the security or stability of the West Bank”, and who have taken part in intimidating or displacing civilians there, the document reportedly says. Other grounds for sanctions could allegedly include human-rights violations and actions that “significantly obstruct, disrupt or prevent efforts to achieve a two-state solution”.

The alleged order comes as an op-ed written by Biden for the Washington Post saw the president reaffirm his commitment to the two-state solution, which lays the groundwork for a peaceful coexistence of the two entities.

While refraining from calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Biden wrote that he was opposed to any forcible displacement of Palestinians from the enclave, and to its reoccupation or blockading by Israeli forces. He also noted that he’d told West Jerusalem that “extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop”.

To punish those engaged in those activities, Washington is ready “to take [its] own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank”, he added.

Israel started establishing settlements in the Palestinian territories after the 1967 Six-Day War, when it seized parts of the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. The settlements are considered illegal by much of the international community, with some outposts even considered unlawful by Israel itself. According to UN data, as of March 2023, there were some 700,000 settlers living in 279 settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, with the number soaring in previous years.

Tensions between settlers and Palestinians have led to recurring violence. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has recorded an average of seven settler-related incidents a day since the October 7 Hamas attack.

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