“Violence in the West Bank this year is at levels not seen since the Second Intifada, and in recent weeks, an alarming surge in violent acts has driven this unwelcome record even higher,” said Matthew Miller, U.S. State Department spokesman, at the department’s press briefing on Tuesday.
“This includes unprecedented levels of violence by Israeli extremist settlers targeting Palestinians and their property, displacing entire communities,” he said. “As well as violence by Palestinian extremist militants against Israeli civilians.”
On Tuesday, Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, announced “a new visa restriction policy” under which Washington will restrict visas of those who undermine “peace, security or stability in the West Bank.” It may also restrict the visas of immediate family members of offenders, Miller 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,” Blinken stated.
“They are happening today,” Miller said of the bans, in response to a question from Associated Press diplomatic writer Matt Lee. “Any Israeli citizen who currently has a visa to enter the United States will be notified that that visa has been revoked.”
“Hold on. Not any Israeli. Any Israeli implicated, targeted,” Lee said.
Miller nodded. “In this program,” he said. “I was speaking about this program. I thought that was evident.”
“Any other Israeli citizen, who is designated as a result of this program but does not currently have a visa, will not be notified,” Miller said. “If they want to travel to the United States and they apply through ESTA, which is the way it works if you’re currently a Visa Waiver Program country, that application will be rejected.”
“They then are able to go and apply for a visa, and if they have been designated as a part of this program, that visa application will be rejected,” he added.
Miller added that this is separate from the Visa Waiver Program and doesn’t have implications for Israel’s participation in the program.
U.S. officials said the Biden administration “concluded that the current Israeli government is not seriously attempting to stop and prevent the attacks against Palestinians,” Axios reported.
The State Department’s announcement comes as a leaked Israeli document suggests that anti-Arab violence in Judea and Samaria has been dropping.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations stated that it welcomed the State Department’s announcement.
“The State Department has taken a symbolic step in the right direction by imposing a visa ban on some of the Israeli settlers responsible for a campaign of ethnic cleansing and murder in the West Bank,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, CAIR national deputy director. “However, Secretary Blinken must take concrete action to address the source of the problem: the far-right, racist Netanyahu government.” Settlers are murdering Palestinians with support from Israeli officials like Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose forces are also literally kidnapping, threatening and torturing Palestinians in the West Bank.”