WASHINGTON(Agencies): U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday the U.S. would begin issuing visa bans on “extremist” Israeli settlers committing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution,” Biden wrote in the Washington Post.
“I have been emphatic with Israel’s leaders that extremist violence against Palestinians in the West Bank must stop and that those committing the violence must be held accountable. The United States is prepared to take our own steps, including issuing visa bans against extremists attacking civilians in the West Bank,” he added.
The move would be the most significant punitive measure the Biden administration has taken toward Israel since he assumed power in January 2021.
Biden detailed basic principles on how to move forward from this war toward a two-state solution, beginning with preventing Gaza from being a platform for terrorism while preventing forced displacement, blockade, reduction in territory or reoccupation. He further called upon an international commitment to creating “interim security measures… and reconstruction mechanism to sustainably meet Gaza’s long-term needs.”
“In the months ahead, the United States will redouble our efforts to establish a more peaceful, integrated and prosperous Middle East — a region where a day like Oct. 7 is unthinkable,” he added.
Biden further warned that he “counseled Israelis against letting their hurt and rage mislead them into making mistakes we ourselves have made in the past,” while stressing “every innocent Palestinian life lost is a tragedy that rips apart families and communities.”
He stressed the need to prevent the conflict from spreading throughout the Middle East, detailing both the increased U.S. force posture in the region as well the sanctions levied against Hamas.
The president also addressed rising antisemitism and Islamophobia stemming from Israel’s war, stating “In recent years, too much hate has been given too much oxygen, fueling racism and an alarming rise in antisemitism in America. That has intensified in the wake of the Oct. 7 attacks. Jewish families worry about being targeted in school, while wearing symbols of their faith on the street or otherwise going about their daily lives. At the same time, too many Muslim Americans, Arab Americans and Palestinian Americans, and so many other communities, are outraged and hurting, fearing the resurgence of the Islamophobia and distrust we saw after 9/11.”
Biden articulated his vision moving forward in a Washington Post opinion piece, repeating points about maintaining Gaza’s territorial integrity and population and the need for an eventual unified Palestinian Authority governance. He also implored the international community to involve itself financially and diplomatically in Gaza’s security and reconstruction. He also nodded to Israel’s regional integration efforts and concerns about domestic antisemitism and Islamophobia.
“A two-state solution is the only way to ensure the long-term security of both the Israeli and Palestinian people. Though right now it may seem like that future has never been further away, this crisis has made it more imperative than ever,” he wrote.
Biden’s opinion piece was published shortly after his top Middle East advisor Brett McGurk, currently visiting the Middle East, said “the surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause in fighting will come when hostages are released,” specifying “all women, children, toddlers and babies.”
His comments reflect an evolution in the Biden administration’s posture toward hostage negotiations mediated by Qatar, further shifting toward Israel’s position that a hostage release would need to precede any days-long pause. “Simply calling for a ceasefire is not a path to peace,” McGurk continued, noting that “the onus is on Hamas.”
McGurk further noted the U.S. has made daily efforts to generate sustained humanitarian assistance into Gaza, now nearing 100 trucks per day. He added that the pathway to a prolonged pause in fighting in the immediate term is through the release of hostages being held by Hamas – particularly women, children, toddlers, and babies.