It will apply to Israeli citizens who have committed acts of violence or taken actions that undermine security and peace in the West Bank.
According to State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, sanctions are currently being issued that will affect “dozens of individuals and their family members.” Those who fall under the new policy and currently possess a visa will receive a notification that it has been revoked and they can no longer enter the country.
Those who are sanctioned but don’t have a visa right now will not receive a notification but will find themselves blocked if they attempt to apply for one. It will not affect Israelis who are already American passport holders due to dual citizenship, however.
State Department privacy rules dictate that the settlers affected by the visa ban policy will not be publicly named.
The move will also impact the deal between Israel and the Biden administration that was reached in September permitting Israeli citizens to visit the U.S. without a visa using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa waiver program; settlers who have been hit by the new sanctions will not receive ESTAs.
Humanitarian organizations and the UN have warned that violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians are rising in the West Bank. They believe that this is due, at least in part, to reprisal for the brutal massacre carried out by Hamas in Israel on October 7, even though many of the victims of Israeli settler violence in the West Bank were not involved in the attacks. Some Palestinians living in the West Bank have claimed that Israeli settlers have been using the violence by Hamas and subsequent war as an opportunity to seize land.
According to the UN, there have been 314 attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinians since the October 7 massacre, and they have resulted in damage to property owned by Palestinians as well as Palestinian casualties. Four Israelis have been killed in attacks carried out by Palestinians in the West Bank during the same span of time.
Roughly 1,000 Palestinians have been expelled from their West Bank homes in the past few months, and these incidents were already at a 15-year high before the October 7 attacks. The International Crisis Group reports that Israeli settlers in the West Bank were responsible for 591 attacks against Palestinians during the first half of the year, which averages three incidents per day.
Senior far-right Israeli ministers such as Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, both of whom are also settlers, have been accused of attempting to downplay the violence being seen in the West Bank.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement: "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. As President Biden has repeatedly said, those attacks are unacceptable."
Blinken also called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to share the responsibility of maintaining stability in the West Bank and discouraging attacks.
Biden has been vocal in criticizing the perpetrators of attacks in the West Bank, writing in a November op-ed for the Washington Post: “I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable.”
Sources for this article include: