Among Israeli and Palestinian leaders, reactions to the Biden administration’s sanctions against West Bank settlers unsurprisingly followed ethnic and ideological lines, from far-right Jewish nationalists who denounced the sanctions as unfair to Arabs who They said they hadn’t gone far enough.
The sanctions announced Thursday came in response to violence by extremist Jewish settlers, which has increased sharply in recent months.
“4 settlers?! Pathetic,” said Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Parliament. wrote in X. “What happens to the Government that adopts them?”
At the other end of the spectrum, settler leaders and ultranationalist lawmakers, including Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, both members of the ruling coalition’s cabinet, insisted that it was the settlers, not the Palestinians they live nearby. , who were the victims. .
“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an anti-Semitic lie spread by Israel’s enemies,” Smotrich said. wrote in Xalthough such violence has been widely documented.
Yossi Dagan, who heads a regional council of settlers in the northern West Bank, said in a statement that he hoped the Biden administration would take similar action against Arab residents who threw stones at settlers and who, he claimed, routinely “attempt to kill the settlers.” Jews”. He focused on the small number of Israelis under sanctions compared to the hundreds of thousands of settlers, although many more have been implicated in the violence.
Mouin Dmeidi, mayor of the Palestinian city of Huwara, which was devastated by a mass settler attack last February, praised Washington’s action and said he hoped other countries would do the same. “This is the first time in a long time that we have seen an American decision that helps us Palestinians,” Dmeidi said in a telephone interview.
Much of the world considers settlements on the lands Israel conquered in the 1967 war illegal, and settlers (who refer to those lands by the biblical names Judea and Samaria) generally support Israel’s annexation of part or of the entire West Bank and oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.
For Palestinians, the settlements are nothing less than land grabs that divide the West Bank in a way that leaves both the current lives of many Arabs and the hoped-for future state unsustainable.
They say extremist settlers have been emboldened by the current government, the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history, which has installed people like Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, who were once considered part of the far right. , in positions of power.
At the highest official levels on both sides, the response to the sanctions was relatively muted.
A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said: “The vast majority of residents in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are fighting these days as conscripts and in the reserves for the defense of Israel. “Israel acts against lawbreakers everywhere, so there is no need to take exceptional measures in this matter.”
The Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision, saying it advanced “the interests of peace in the region.”
The mostly centrist Israeli opposition remained silent on the sanctions, avoiding a politically sensitive issue. The settlers and their supporters are a powerful force in Israeli politics, gaining strength as successive governments expanded and encouraged settlements.
Opposition leaders have wanted to keep the focus on the war in the Gaza Strip against Hamas and the government failures that preceded it.