Nov 18, 2023 - World

Biden warns U.S. could sanction Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians

Israeli soldiers guard Jewish settlers after some launch an attack on the Palestinian town of Deir Sharaf following a shooting attack that killed an Israeli man in the area. Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

President Biden stressed on Saturday that the U.S. is prepared to impose sanctions on Israeli settlers who are involved in attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Why it matters: It is the first time the U.S. has publicly said it was considering individual sanctions against Israeli settlers.

  • It also signals that the Biden administration is concerned that the Israeli government may not be seriously attempting to stop and prevent the violence.

What they are saying: "I have been emphatic with Israel's leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable," Biden wrote in an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Saturday.

  • "The United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank."

Driving the news: Since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, Israeli settlers have killed at least eight Palestinians, including a child, and injured more than 70 others in the West Bank, according to the UN.

  • The UN humanitarian office has recorded more than 251 settler attacks, including 30 incidents that resulted in Palestinian deaths or injuries, 185 that damaged Palestinian-owned property and 36 that resulted in both injuries or deaths and damage to property.
  • "Over one-third of these incidents included threats with firearms, including shootings. In nearly half of all incidents, Israeli forces were either accompanying or actively supporting the attackers," OCHA said on Friday.

State of play: Biden has repeatedly raised concerns about attacks on West Bank Palestinians during his calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to U.S. officials.

  • He also publicly said last month that the attacks by extremist Jewish settlers were "pouring gasoline on the fire."

The U.S. allowed Israel to buy thousands of M16 rifles from U.S. defense companies only after being assured the weapons wouldn't go to civilian response teams in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, as Axios previously reported.

  • The commitment by Israel was a key condition the Biden administration and members of Congress demanded before approving the sale of the rifles, which the Israeli government urgently requested after the Oct.7 Hamas terrorist attack.

The big picture: Biden also wrote on Saturday that after the war ends, "Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution."

  • In recent days, Netanyahu expressed public opposition to the Palestinian Authority having any role in Gaza on the day after the war.
  • But in a press conference on Saturday, he appeared to soften his position, saying he doesn't think the Palestinian Authority "in its current form" should have a role in Gaza.
  • This position is much closer to that of Biden, who has spoken about a "revitalized" Palestinian Authority. Both sides agree that the Palestinian leadership needs to conduct a series of reforms.

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