US calls on Israel to 'confront' settler violence against Palestinians
Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin urged his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, to "confront extremist settler violence against Palestinian civilians" in a telephone call on Tuesday.
He also urged the Israeli defence ministry to improve economic opportunities for Palestinians in the West Bank, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 with Palestinians living under effective military rule and a nexus of Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territory creating further misery for civilians.
Austin also called on the Palestinian leadership to condemn what he described as "terrorism" and "take effective steps to prevent violence", stressing the "urgent need for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to take meaningful steps to ensure stability in the West Bank".
More than 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers since the start of 2023 in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, according to a tally by the Palestinian Information Center.
Settlers have raided towns, torched private property, and attacked Palestinians, often usually under the passive eye of authorities.
One such instance was in Hawara earlier this year, which followed a shooting that wounded two Israeli soldiers in the town's main street earlier that day led to a pogrom by Israeli settlers.
There are more than 700,000 settlers residing in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Most of the international community deems Israel's settlements in these territories illegal.
Regarding the controversial judicial overhaul plans, Austin called on the government to reach a "political consensus" following previous pressure from Washington on Netanyahu to not go ahead with the law which has deeply divided Israel and has sparked massive protests.
On Monday, the Knesset passed the judicial reforms bill following hours of deliberation, which has already sparked legal challenges and clashes on the streets. Protesters blocked main roads in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, while hundreds surrounded the government and the supreme court buildings.
US President Joe Biden reportedly warned Netanyahu before that his government’s judicial "reform" plan could deeply harm American-Israeli relations.