Among Israeli and Palestinian leaders, reactions to Biden administration sanctions against West Bank settlers fell predictably along ethnic and ideological lines, from far-right Jewish nationalists who denounced the penalties as unjust to Arabs who said they did not go far enough.

The sanctions announced on Thursday came in response to violence by Jewish settler extremists, which has increased sharply in recent months.

“4 settlers?! Pathetic,” Ahmad Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Parliament, wrote on X. “What about the Government who adopt them?”

At the other end of the spectrum, settler leaders as well as ultranationalist lawmakers, including Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, both cabinet members in the governing coalition, insisted that it was the settlers, not the Palestinians they live near, who were victims.

“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an anti-Semitic lie spread by Israel’s enemies,” Mr. Smotrich wrote on X, though such violence has been amply documented.

Yossi Dagan, who leads a regional settler council in the northern West Bank, said in a statement that he expected the Biden administration to take similar steps against the Arab residents who threw stones at settlers, and who, he claimed, routinely “try to murder Jews.” He focused on the small number of Israelis placed under sanctions relative to the hundreds of thousands of settlers, though many more have been implicated in the violence.

Mouin Dmeidi, the mayor of the Palestinian town of Huwara — which was devastated by a mass settler attack last February — praised the action from Washington and said he hoped other countries would follow suit. “This is the first time in a long time that we’ve seen an American decision that helps us Palestinians,” Mr. Dmeidi said in a phone interview.

Much of the world considers the settlements on land Israel conquered in the 1967 war to be illegal, and settlers — who refer to the land by the Biblical names Judea and Samaria — generally support Israel’s annexation of some or all of the West Bank and oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

To Palestinians, the settlements are nothing less than land grabs that carve up the West Bank in a way that leaves both present-day life for many Arabs and a hoped-for future state untenable.

They say that extremist settlers have been emboldened by the current government, the most right-wing and religiously conservative in Israel’s history, which has placed people like Mr. Ben-Gvir and Mr. Smotrich, who were once considered part of the right’s extreme fringe, in powerful positions.

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 for exceptional steps in this matter.”

The Palestinian Authority Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision, saying it advanced “the interests of peace in the region.”

The mostly centrist Israeli opposition was largely silent about the sanctions, avoiding a politically touchy subject. Settlers and their supporters are a powerful force in Israeli politics, gaining strength as successive governments expanded and encouraged settlements.

The opposition’s leaders have wanted to keep the focus on the war in the Gaza Strip against Hamas, and on the government failures that preceded it.

Source link