White House calls on Israel to hold settler rioters ‘accountable’
Mideast turmoilAt least one rioter arrested

White House calls on Israel to hold settler rioters ‘accountable’

Settler rampages in West Bank villages have left at least one Palestinian dead.

A field fire during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers near the Palestinian village of Qusra, in the West Bank, June 22, 2023. (Flash90)
A field fire during clashes between Palestinians and Jewish settlers near the Palestinian village of Qusra, in the West Bank, June 22, 2023. (Flash90)

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jake Sullivan,  President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, called on his Israeli counterpart to hold settler rioters “accountable” for rampages in West Bank villages that have left at least one dead.

The Israeli army meanwhile said it arrested at least one rioter as the rampages continued on Saturday. The riots come as the Biden administration nitration hopes to salvage its efforts to expand the Abraham Accords, the 2020 normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries.

In a readout of his call with Tzachi HaNegbi late Friday night, the White House said Sullivan expressed “since condolences” for a deadly terrorist attack on Tuesday that killed four Israeli civilians, and pledged “unwavering support” for Israeli security.

“Sullivan also expressed deep concern over the recent extremist settler attacks against Palestinian civilians and the destruction of their property in the West Bank,” said the readout, which was rare for such calls, which occur frequently between national security advisers.  “He reiterated the importance of holding accountable those responsible for such acts of violence.”

HaNegbi did not release a corresponding statement.

The riots on Tuesday night and Wednesday left at least one Palestinian dead in Turmus Aya, the home village of one of the terrorists who carried out the attack a day earlier. Settlers burned cars and crops.

On Saturday, settlers rampaged through Umm Safa, a village, like Turmus Aya, near the major Palestinian city of Ramallah. The army arrested one rioter and said a soldier had been injured by a rock during the dispersal.

“The IDF will continue to act determinedly to stop all acts of violence and destruction of property,” a statement said. “The IDF condemns such acts of nationalist crime that lead to escalation.”

The use of “nationalist crime” is the military’s euphemism for terrorist attack, and has hardly ever been applied to Jews. Later Saturday, in a highly unusual joint announcement, the heads of the army, the police and the Shin Bet forcefully condemned the violence.

“In recent days, violent attacks have been carried out by Israelis in Judea and Samaria against innocent Palestinians. These attacks contradict every moral and Jewish value; they constitute, in every way, nationalist terrorism, and we are obliged to fight them,” said the statement from military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi; Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar; and national police commissioner, Yaakov Shabtai. “We call on the leaders and educators in the communities to publicly denounce these acts of violence and to join the effort to fight against them.”

Later Saturday, some ministers weighed in, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not. “I strongly condemn the violence perpetrated against residents of the village of Umm Safa, including the burning of houses and vehicles,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. “This is not our way of life.” He said he had “given a clear directive to our troops to maintain order and stability, and to prevent acts of violence perpetrated by civilians in the area.”

There have been tensions between the security forces and extremist ministers in the Cabinet, particularly Itamar Ben-Gvir, the national security minister.

The White House readout said Sullivan “encouraged additional steps to restore calm and de-escalate tensions, and called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions, including settlement activity, that further inflame tensions.”

Israel recently announced the advancement of 4,000 settlement units in the West Bank, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after the terrorist attack on Tuesday that he would accurate the building of 1,000 of the units in Eli, the settlement targeted in the attack.

Morocco  this week canceled a summit scheduled for next month to advance the Abraham Accords in light of the settlement announcement.

Reports have said that the Biden administration is concerned that an all out Israeli-Palestinian conflagration would have far-reaching consequences, inhibiting its efforts to bring Saudi Artabia into the Abraham Accords and to further isolate Iran, with repercussions felt perhaps as far afield as Ukraine, where Russia has Iran’s backing and assistance in tis war against the country.

The northern West Bank city of Jenin earlier this week saw its heaviest violence in decades as Israeli soldiers on a military raid clashed with Palestinian militants.

Five Palestinians were killed in the violence on Monday and more than 90 were wounded, according to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry. Eight Israeli soldiers were wounded in the fighting — the latest in a string of clashes in Jenin over the past year.

“Sullivan also updated Hanegbi on broader regional issues including efforts to enhance Israel’s integration into the region,” the White House readout said, “as well as President Biden’s iron-clad commitment that Iran will never be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.” PJC

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