update deskIsrael at War

Biden wants visa ban for Israeli lawbreakers in Judea and Samaria

The president ordered Cabinet members to take action "against those responsible for the conduct of violence in the West Bank."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with U.S. President Joe Biden in New York, Sept. 20. 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House photo.

The United States is seeking to deny visas and impose sanctions on Israelis involved in violent acts against Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria.

A Cabinet memo sent by President Joe Biden to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and other senior aides ordered their agencies “to develop policy options for expeditious action against those responsible for the conduct of violence in the West Bank,” Politico reported on Saturday.

Biden wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published on Saturday that “the United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank.”

The internal document, which was read to Politico by a senior U.S. official on Saturday evening, shortly after Biden’s op-ed was published, broadly defines the targets of the visa ban and sanctions.

They include people or entities that “have directly or indirectly engaged in actions or policies that threaten the security or stability of the West Bank,” take “actions that intimidate civilians in the West Bank with the purpose or effect of forcing displacement actions in the West Bank,” or make moves “that constitute human rights abuses or violations and actions that significantly obstruct, disrupt or prevent efforts to achieve a two-state solution.”

The Biden administration warned Israel that it is violating the visa waiver program with the U.S. by preventing Palestinian Arabs with American citizenship from crossing into Israel from Judea and Samaria, Axios reported last week.

Israel imposed a closure of Judea and Samaria shortly after the Oct. 7 massacre that saw thousands of Hamas terrorists swarm across the Gaza border, murdering 1,200 people, wounding over 5,000 others and taking more than 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas at the end of September approved Israel joining the U.S. Visa Waiver Program after Jerusalem agreed to ease restrictions of Palestinian Arabs in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip entering the country.

Israel was supposed to enter the Visa Waiver Program at the end of November, but following the Hamas attack, it was moved forward to Oct. 19.

U.S. and Israeli officials told Axios that new American Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew met with Israeli National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and voiced concern about the restrictions. Hanegbi told Lew the closure was imposed for security reasons and that he was committed to finding a solution, according to an Israeli official.

An American official said that the Biden administration would give Israel more time to work out the issue but that if Jerusalem doesn’t resolve the issue “within weeks,” the U.S. could suspend Israel’s membership in the Visa Waiver Program.

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