Blinken raises concerns over West Bank violence in call with Israeli Foreign Minister

The National  /  June 28, 2023

US citizens have been directly affected by recent escalations in fighting, US State Department says.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has “conveyed concern” over the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank during a phone call with Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, the State Department said.

Mr Blinken also discussed Israel’s regional ties and efforts to counter Iranian influence during the talks on Tuesday, Washington said.

Recent violence in the West Bank has directly affected US citizens, it said.

Days of deadly settler violence in Palestinian villages following the death of four Israelis in an attack near a West Bank settlement has reignited fears of a broader conflict.

A Palestinian was last week shot dead in the village of Turmus Aya and dozens of homes and vehicles set alight by Israeli settlers across the West Bank.

It led Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to condemn the violence in a rare call with Palestinian leaders.

Mr Blinken’s call comes days after the US announced it is to end scientific co-operation with Israeli institutions in the West Bank, a sign of the growing cracks between Washington and its ally.

The decision was announced on Monday, the same day the Israeli government’s Supreme Planning Council approved the construction of about 5,700 more settler homes in the occupied West Bank.

The State Department said it was “deeply troubled” by the decision to expand settlements.

Although the US has criticized Israeli settlements, deemed illegal under international law, it is often criticized for not taking stronger action to oppose their construction.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet recently eased restrictions on settlement construction, a key priority of the government, which is considered the most right-wing in the country’s history.

Washington said on Monday that it would monitor Palestinian-American access to Israel and the West Bank as it considers adding Israel to its visa waiver program.

The pilot initiative, to be launched next month, will involve US delegates keeping tabs on Palestinian-American travel through Ben Gurion Airport and across West Bank checkpoints.