The United States called for Israel to ensure accountability for the settler rampage against Palestinians, condemned the terror attack at a West Bank gas station and slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s announcement that he planned to build 1,000 new homes in the Eli settlement.
“Accountability and justice should be pursued with equal rigor in all cases of extremist violence,” US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters in Washington on Wednesday after a violent three days in the West Bank, sparked by an IDF arrest raid in Jenin on Monday during which five Palestinians were killed.
That was followed by a Palestinian terror attack against a gas station near the Eli settlement that claimed four Israelis' lives on Tuesday. Settlers overnight attacked the nearby Palestinian town of Turmus Ayya setting homes and cars ablaze. One Palestinian man was killed during the violence.
“We strongly condemn yesterday’s terror attack” outside Eli, Patel said, adding that there is “no justification for terrorism.”
Overall, he said, “We are deeply concerned by the rising levels of violence in the West Bank in recent months.”
"We are deeply concerned by the rising levels of violence in the West Bank in recent months"State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel
But his harshest words were for the settler attack. He welcomed the IDF condemnation, but said that the US expects “the Israeli government to ensure accountability and legal prosecution for those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for lost homes and property.”
Netanyahu issued a strong statement against the violent settler attack, emphasizing, “There are days when we must state what is self-evident: The State of Israel is a nation of laws. All citizens of Israel are obligated to obey the law.”
He specifically mentioned that the statement applied to the West Bank.
Netanyahu approves 1,000 new settler homes in response to terror
The Eli attack had already prompted a response from Netanyahu’s office which announced Israel’s intention to advance plans for 1,000 new homes Eli.
"Our answer to terrorism is to strike it hard and build our country,” Netanyahu’s office stated.
Netanyahu approved the move together with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who holds a ministerial position in the Defense Ministry.
Patel spoke out against the move. “Unilateral action such as settlement advancement will only incite tensions and undermine the prospect of a two-state solution,” he stated.
Those units would be in addition to the 4,560 new homes the Civil Administration’s Higher Planning Council plans to advance when it convenes later this month. It is expected to approve the deposit of a plan for 500 new homes in Eli.
The construction of 1,500 units would more than double the size of the community, which according to the Central Bureau of Statistics had a population of 4,613 in 2021.
Eli is located close to 24 kilometers over the pre-1967 lines, off of Route 60 in the Binyamin region. Like all of the West Bank settlements, former US President Donald Trump’s peace plan drew it into the section of Area C over which Israel would eventually be allowed to apply sovereignty.
It is, however, outside the boundaries of the security barrier. The international community and the Israeli Left hold that it is an isolated settlement outside the blocs and located so deep into the West Bank that its presence makes it more difficult to create a viable Palestinian state in Area C.
The international community had already condemned Israel this week over the intention to advance 4,560 homes and the amendment to a 1996 government decision that would fast-track the approval process for settler building projects.
Separately settler families returned to the Evyatar outpost in the Samaria region of the West Bank, a fledgling hilltop community they voluntarily abandoned two years ago after striking an agreement with the government that the hilltop would be legalized as a new settlement starting with the approval for the construction of a yeshiva at the site.
To date, neither the previous government or the existing one has kept their pledge in that regard.
Yesha Council head Shlomo Ne’eman said of the new building announcement, “To those who wish us harm, know that we are here to stay. Terrorism will not defeat us. We will continue to live and flourish in the land of our ancestors.”
While the international attention which had at first focused on condemning the Eli terror attack turned to statements against settlement building and violence, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan called for the Security Council to condemn the Eli attack and hold the Palestinian Authority accountable for inciting terror.
“Heinous attacks” such as what happened in Eli “are a direct result of deliberate incitement by Palestinian terror organizations, as well as the Palestinian Authority, which continues to finance the salaries of murderers and their families through the Palestinian Authority’s despicable ‘pay-for-slay’ policy” by which stipends are giving to terrorists and their families.
This “stands in clear contravention of international law concerning the financing of terrorism. The Palestinian Authority’s continued encouragement of terror is appalling.”