“Visa restrictions are very much on the table as one possible measure that we might implement,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters on Monday. “There could be others.”
That warning underscores the flaring tensions in the West Bank, a region reserved in United Nations resolutions for the establishment of a prospective “independent Arab state” alongside Israel, in the weeks since Hamas terrorists based in Gaza perpetrated a large-scale massacre. And it also points to the potential for a dispute to arise between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“We have made very clear, from the president on down, that the level of extremist violence against innocent Palestinian civilians in the West Bank right now is unacceptable,” Miller said. “The secretary has raised that repeatedly with the government of Israel in his travels there that the violence needs to stop.”
About 115 Palestinian people in the West Bank have been killed by Israeli settlers over the last several weeks, according to U.N. data.
“We’ve observed more incidents where armed settlers have threatened Palestinians,” Andrea De Domenico, who leads the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the New York Times in late October. “In several areas, Palestinians have been ordered to leave under the threat of firearms.”
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, a once-fringe politician who rose to power when Netanyahu couldn’t form a governing majority without him, has scoffed at the allegations.
“The domestic and foreign criticism of ‘settler violence’ should completely disappear from the public discourse,” Ben Gvir wrote on social media on Nov. 9. “Everyone knows who exactly is behaving violently…Praying and sending wishes for a speedy recovery to the wounded who were harmed solely because they were Jewish.”
Netanyahu has clashed with Ben Gvir over the issue, according to local reports, and Blinken’s team emphasized Monday that the Israeli government needs to crack down on the violence.
“The perpetrators need to be held accountable,” Miller said. “We want to see people prosecuted when they have violated the law. And in addition to the Government of Israel taking steps to promote accountability, there are steps that we can take as well, and we have a number of those steps under consideration.”