Updated Dec 5, 2023 - World

U.S. imposes visa ban on Israeli settlers who attacked Palestinians

A Palestinian man inspects the damage to a store in the village of Huwara in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Oct. 6 after an overnight attack by Israeli settlers. Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday announced it has imposed sanctions on several dozen Israeli settlers believed to be involved in attacks against Palestinians, banning them from traveling to the U.S.

Why it matters: The move shows how concerned the Biden administration is about escalating attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank — and that the Israeli government isn't doing enough to prevent the violence.

  • The State Department also announced a travel ban on several dozen Palestinians who were believed to be involved in attacks against Israelis. The names of the people being added to the department's visa restrictions blacklist won't be added, two U.S. officials said.
  • It is the first time the U.S. is sanctioning extremist settlers since the Clinton administration, the officials said.
  • "Immediate family members of such persons may also be subject to these restrictions," U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken said in a press briefing Tuesday announcing the travel ban.

What they're saying: The U.S. has "consistently opposed actions that undermine stability in the West Bank, including attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians, and Palestinian attacks against Israelis," Blinken said.

  • "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," he added.
  • Blinken said the U.S. will "continue to engage" with Israeli leadership and the Palestinian Authority to make clear both need to do more to curb the attacks.
  • "Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have the responsibility to uphold stability in the West Bank," he said.

Background: The Biden administration has been raising its concerns about settler violence with the Israeli government in private and in public for three years, according to the U.S. officials.

  • But since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, there has been a spike in the number of attacks by settlers against Palestinians.
  • In a Washington Post op-ed published two weeks ago, President Biden mentioned the U.S. was preparing to issue a visa ban on extremist settlers involved in attacks against Palestinians.

Behind the scenes: A day before the op-ed was published, Biden sent a memo to several Cabinet secretaries asking them to prepare possible sanctions "against individuals or entities who directly or indirectly engaged in actions that threaten security or stability in the West Bank or take actions that intimidate civilians in the West Bank or actions that significantly obstruct, disrupt or prevent efforts to achieve a two-state solution," a third U.S. official with direct knowledge of the memo said.

  • U.S. officials said the administration decided to impose sanctions against Israeli settlers because it concluded that the current Israeli government is not seriously attempting to stop and prevent the attacks against Palestinians.
  • Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog gave the State Department and the White House last week a document with details about the number of attacks and the steps the Israeli government has been taking to prevent them, Israeli and U.S. officials said.
  • The document included a claim that the number of attacks has gone down in recent weeks, but U.S. officials told Herzog it is still higher than it had been before Oct. 7.
  • Blinken today said he raised the issue of settler violence with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during his visit to Israel last week.
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