The Palestinian Authority is promoting the idea of deploying an international force in the West Bank to protect Palestinians against settler violence, Palestinian officials said over the weekend.
The officials said the proposal has been brought to the attention of United Nations and European Union officials following the recent attacks by settlers on Palestinian towns in the West Bank.
“The Israeli government is responsible for the settler terrorism,” said one official. “Its ministers support and encourage the settlers. The only way to stop the attacks is by having international troops in the West Bank.”
Another official said on Saturday that the idea of deploying an international force in the West Bank is backed by a number of Arab and EU states, as well as other countries.
“The recent attacks by Jewish settlers on Palestinian towns and villages underscore the need for international protection for the Palestinians in the West Bank,” the official said. “The force can be formed by the UN or other countries.”
He pointed out that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly called for providing international protection for the Palestinians.
On Saturday, the PA called on the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants for Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and other Israeli ministers for allegedly supporting settler “terrorism” against Palestinians in the West Bank.
In the past, the PA called on the ICC to also issue an arrest warrant against National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
The PA's response to terror in Eli
The PA’s latest call came in response to statements made last week by Smotrich, who refused to call settler rampages in Palestinian communities “terror” and argued that terrorism was a fight against an “enemy” who wants to “remove us from the land,” while settlers were “brothers,” and therefore their violence should be treated as civil crime.
“Smotrich’s statements provide an official cover and protection for settler terrorism,” the PA charged in a statement issued by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry. “They also encourage settlers to carry out more crimes against our people, our lands, houses, and properties.”
Rawhi Fattouh, chairman of the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the PLO, also condemned Smotrich’s statements in favor of the settlers and said they “reaffirm the extremism and fascism of the occupation government, which supports settler terrorism.”
Fattouh urged the international community to take “serious measures on the ground to halt the terrorism of the government of settlers.”
The ministry called on the international community to boycott Smotrich, head of the coalition’s far-right Religious Zionist Party, and other Israeli ministers for their alleged support of settler violence.
The ministry also appealed to the international community to exert pressure on Israel “to dismantle settler terror militias” in the aftermath of the recent attacks on the Palestinian towns of Turmus Ayya and Umm Safah.
The attacks took place after the killing of four Israelis near the settlement of Eli.
The PA ministry said it was “astonished” by reports in the Israeli media that warned against the formation of armed settler groups in the West Bank. It claimed that such groups already exist and are operating with the backing and protection of the IDF and some ministers in the Israeli government.
“The terror of the settlers comes as a direct result of the state terror,” it said. “We call on the international community to place all these Jewish groups on the lists of terrorist organizations.”
The Palestinians have “repeatedly warned that Israel would plant epicenters for armed settler militias and their terror elements in the West Bank,” the ministry added.