The United States levied sanctions on December 5 against extremist Israeli settlers responsible for assaults on Palestinians in the West Bank. The measures, according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, apply to all individuals who undermine the stability, security, or tranquillity of the West Bank, including Israelis who have attacked Palestinian civilians.
In the past few weeks, the US government has repeatedly voiced its worry about the violence that has been committed by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, an area Israel has occupied since 1967. Subsequently, Israeli construction of settlements has commenced in the vicinity. This violates international law and infuriates the Palestinian people to a significant degree. The far-right parties comprising Benjamin Netanyahu’s government support the colonisers who are constructing new settlements.
Violence in the West Bank has escalated since hostilities between Israel and Hamas, the governing organisation of the Gaza Strip, erupted on October 7. A Palestinian government tally indicates that approximately 250 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers since October 7, even though Hamas does not control the region.
Earlier, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it is “deeply concerned” that “neither party is adhering to the principles of proportionality and selectivity” in the conflict. The United Nations specifically highlighted the escalation of hostilities in northern Gaza, which has resulted in a shocking number of fatalities and injuries. OHCHR reports that 132 Palestinians, including 41 children, were killed in the West Bank between October 7 and November 2: 124 by Israeli forces and eight by settlers. Already at an all-time high, settler violence has escalated significantly, with an average of seven assaults occurring daily. More than one-third of these attacks, according to OHCHR spokeswoman Elizabeth Throssell, involved the use of firearms.
She stated that documentation shows that Israeli military personnel forces accompanied settlers during a number of these incidents or that they were carrying army rifles and donning uniforms. She said her institution is concerned that the armed settlers acted with the cooperation and acquiescence of Israeli authorities and forces, in addition to the near-total impunity for settler violence.
Entire communities have been compelled to flee their farms due to this violence. Nearly a thousand Palestinians from at least fifteen pastoral communities have been forced to escape their homes since October 7. The OHCHR official stressed that under these conditions, settler violence may amount to forcible population transfers, which is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
With these sanctions, the Americans are increasing the pressure on Israel to curb violence there. The US has emphasised to the Israeli government that more must be done to hold accountable settlers who have committed violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank, Blinken said.
It is not only the United States that condemns and takes action against the phenomenon. The G7 stated on November 8 that they condemned violent actions committed by Israeli settlers against the Palestinian population. The escalation of violent activities carried out by extremist settlers against Palestinians is deemed intolerable, as it compromises security in the West Bank and jeopardises the potential for an enduring peace agreement, according to a statement released after a summit in Tokyo attended by the high representatives for foreign affairs and security policy of Britain, European Union, Germany, Italy, Canada, the United States, France, and Japan.
The German government had asked Israel to defend Palestinians in the occupied West Bank against extremist Jewish settlers. As the occupying power in the West Bank, Israel is responsible for guaranteeing the safety and security of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, according to a press conference held in Berlin on Monday, October 30 and attended by Sebastian Fischer, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry.
Peter Stano, a representative of the director of European diplomacy Josep Borrell, stated on December 7 that the G7 and the EU are concerned about the escalating violence and terrorist activities committed by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank of Jordan.
The spokesman stated that this subject was discussed at the most recent informal meeting of EU foreign ministers via video link, which Borrell presided over in the aftermath of his November 20 tour of the Middle East. Furthermore, the matter will be revisited during a December 11 meeting of the EU Council at the level of foreign ministers. Nonetheless, he stated that discussing any measures arising from the meeting is premature until the 27 member states have reached a consensus.
The foreign minister of Belgium announced on December 8 that the European Union would not permit extremist Israeli settlers to enter the continent. Belga, a Belgian news agency, reports that Prime Minister Alexander De Croo prohibited extremist settlers from the West Bank from entering Belgium the day prior.
Foreign Minister Hadja Labib said the request for entrance restrictions would be presented to the Council of European Foreign Ministers on Monday and at the summit of European leaders the following week.
De Croo declared in a speech at the University of Ghent that a comparable prohibition would be enforced in Belgium. He stated that the entry of extremist settlers from the West Bank into Belgium would be prohibited.
At the international conference commemorating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75th anniversary, he stated that Belgium would collaborate with the United States on these sanctions and insist that the European Union follow their lead.
The lack of compliance from other member states would render a national entry prohibition largely ineffective, given the unrestricted movement of individuals within the EU. Labib will, therefore, bring this to the attention of her European counterparts, Hadja Labib explained in a press release.
According to the press release, Minister Labib favours European efforts to expedite the implementation of an entry prohibition in Belgium and the European Union.
The position of the European Union regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict is not unified. Belgium denounced the terrorist attack carried out by “Hamas” in Israel on October 7 and attributed the heavy loss of life among civilians in the Gaza Strip to Israel.
It is generally felt that only the UN Security Council-approved “two-state” solution, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state inside the 1967 boundaries with its capital in East Jerusalem, can bring about a resolution to the Middle East conflict.