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Dec 5, 2023, 6:53pm EST
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Semafor Signals

US bans visas for Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians

Israeli troops in West Bank
REUTERS/Raneen Sawafta
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The News

The U.S. State Department said Tuesday it would impose visa restrictions on Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians in the West Bank.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the restrictions would target anyone “involved in undermining peace, security or stability” in the West Bank. The move comes after multiple warnings from U.S. officials that Israel was not doing enough to address attacks by settlers, which have sharply increased since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

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At least nine Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers since the onset of the war, Al Jazeera reports, more than three times the number in all of 2022. Hundreds more have been killed by Israeli security forces.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Israeli settlers are “clearly taking advantage of this moment to make [West Bank Palestinians’] lives unliveable,” Palestinian writer and community organizer Ali Awad writes in the New York Times. He recounts his years of turmoil in the West Bank, sharing how Israeli settlers and the Israeli military used tactics such as cutting road access and water supply from communities to force families to move out. But the settlers and military seem “to have fused into one entity” since the Hamas attack, Awad writes, with army reservists new to the area “apparently now taking their orders from local settler-soldiers or security teams.” While the Israeli government says it will investigate attacks against Palestinians, he adds, far-right ministers are “fanning the flames” of aggression.

Observers like Jewish Journal columnist Blake Flayton are concerned that the visa restrictions ”will only embolden" Israeli settlers. The visa policy does not apply to the military, which means it will not deter “the Israeli soldiers who protect settlers while they attack Palestinians,” notes Al-Shabaka policy fellow Tariq Kenney-Shawa. Freelance journalist Jonathan Moremi opined that the State Department’s refusal to disclose names of those under the visa restrictions suggested that Washington was “still protecting the criminals.

Israel’s visa waiver program with the U.S. may also be at risk. Before the Oct. 7 attacks, the State Department accepted Israel into the program after it agreed to ease restrictions on movement for Palestinian Americans who live in the West Bank and Gaza. But with Israel barring Palestinians from entering the country since the attack, U.S. officials have warned they will suspend Israelis’ visa privileges if those restrictions continue, Axios reports. Palestinian activists argued that even if Israel abides by U.S. requirements, it will not change the systemic discrimination many Palestinian Americans face when visiting their ancestral homeland.

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