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U.S. pressures Israel to stop Israeli settler violence against West Bank Palestinians

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Biden administration says Israel is not doing enough to stop Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Now, the State Department has a new tool to step up the pressure. Extremist Israelis responsible for violence against Palestinians will be denied visas for the U.S. NPR's Michele Kelemen has this report.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: When Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel last week, he pressed the government to prosecute settlers who have attacked Palestinians. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says the U.S. has been raising this issue for months, but the violence has intensified in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7.

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MATTHEW MILLER: This includes unprecedented levels of violence by Israeli extremist settlers targeting Palestinians and their property, displacing entire communities, as well as violence by Palestinian extremist militants against Israeli civilians.

KELEMEN: Anyone taking part could be added to a visa ban list. Miller says dozens of Israeli settlers are to be added to the list, and their family members could face restrictions, too. But the State Department won't name names or say if it would ban extremist members of the Israeli government from coming to the U.S. The U.S. also can't deny entry to U.S. passport holders, though there are many Israeli American settlers living in the West Bank.

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MILLER: It is the government of Israel that has the responsibility to hold extremist settlers responsible. That includes settlers of any nationality who are committing violent acts.

KELEMEN: In responding to the sanctions, Israeli Government Minister Benny Gantz took issue with the U.S. characterization of the settler violence.

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BENNY GANTZ: (Non-English language spoken).

KELEMEN: "It does not represent Israeli citizens, and it does not represent the settlers of the West Bank, 99% or more of whom are law-abiding," Gantz said.

Secretary Blinken has also been pushing Palestinians to stop attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, and the new visa ban could apply to anyone undermining stability there.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.