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Senators Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Colleagues Press Biden Administration on West Bank Settler Violence

"Letter stresses importance of stability in the West Bank for U.S. national security"

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From Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine:

WARNER, KAINE, COLLEAGUES PRESS BIDEN ADMIN ON WEST BANK SETTLER VIOLENCE

 ~ Letter stresses importance of stability in the West Bank for U.S. national security ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, (both D-VA) joined U.S. Sens. John Ossoff (D-GA), Jack Reed (D-RI), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in a letter to President Biden regarding increasing violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. On October 29, the United Nations warned of escalations in the West Bank, and since, reports continue to warn about the destabilizing potential of the violence in the region.

“As Israel confronts the atrocities of the October 7th Hamas attacks, and threats in Gaza and southern Lebanon, it is crucial that U.S. and Israeli policy reinforce the stability and security of the West Bank,” the senators wrote. “If additional action to prevent these violent settler activities is not taken, we worry that civilians and U.S. national security interests will suffer grave harm.”

“We are encouraged by recent statements from the White House emphasizing the need to mitigate settler violence. We also note the vital role that the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) is playing to manage risk in the area,” they continued. “However, more must be done. We urge your administration to enhance its diplomatic efforts to prevent further violence and respectfully request a briefing from your administration on current policy to address incidents of extremist settler violence and the forcible displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank.”

Following the October 7th attacks, Sens. Warner and Kaine strongly condemned the assault. In the days following Hamas’s attacks, Sens. Warner and Kaine took a series of steps to ensure that the Biden Administration addresses emergency needs in Gaza, curbs crypto-financed terrorism, and continues supporting the release of American hostages throughout this crisis. Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Kaine also called for a short-term cessation of violence in order to ensure assistance is reaching Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

A copy of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Mr. President,

We write to express concern about threats to West Bank stability and the risks these threats pose to U.S. national security interests and to civilians. As Israel confronts the atrocities of the October 7th Hamas attacks, and threats in Gaza and southern Lebanon, it is crucial that U.S. and Israeli policy reinforce the stability and security of the West Bank. Alarming incidents of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians represent an acute destabilizing risk that must be mitigated to prevent wider conflict in the region. Israeli media has reported that Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, is itself concerned that settler violence could inflame the West Bank.

Moreover, reports from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that Israeli forces at times accompany extremist settlers as they attack Palestinian people, evict them from their homes, and destroy property, are cause for serious concern and must be addressed.

If additional action to prevent these violent attacks is not taken, we worry that civilians and U.S national security interests will suffer grave harm. The situation is likely to exacerbate anger and grievance among the people of the West Bank and across the Arab world, inhibit efforts to cooperate with Arab states against shared threats, and undermine moderate Palestinian leaders who can offer an alternative to Hamas and make peace with Israel. Ultimately, these conditions could provoke widespread violence and a broader conflict.

We are encouraged by recent statements from the White House emphasizing the need to mitigate settler violence. We also note the vital role that the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC) is playing to manage risk in the area. 

However, more must be done. We urge your administration to enhance its diplomatic efforts to prevent further violence and respectfully request a briefing from your administration on current policy to address incidents of extremist settler violence and the forcible displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank.

Thank you for your timely response to this request.

Sincerely,

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