As settler violence continues, Nides says US ‘won’t stand by’ and let it happen

Biden administration escalates its rhetoric against rampages targeting Palestinians, but attacks continue throughout West Bank for third day in a row

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The damage caused by a settler rampage in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)
The damage caused by a settler rampage in the West Bank village of Turmus Ayya, on June 21, 2023. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides said Thursday that the Biden administration would “not stand by and watch settler violence occur,” following a string of rampages by Israelis targeting Palestinians in the West Bank.

It was the second day in a row that a US official condemned settler violence, though Nides — who is known to speak matter-of-factly — appeared to go further than State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel did on Tuesday.

But Nides’s remarks at a Tel Aviv gathering of young Israelis and Palestinians organized by the Geneva Initiative were given as reports came out of additional settler riots unfolding in the West Bank Palestinian towns of Urif and Jaloud.

Since a Palestinian terror shooting outside the Eli settlement left four Israelis dead on Tuesday, settlers have been rioting in Palestinian villages across the West Bank, setting fire to homes, cars, and terrorizing residents in rampages that have led to a Palestinian death.

“We will not stand by and watch settler violence occur. No one should have to worry about a rogue army,” the ambassador said. “We’re pushing the Israelis to take whatever action they need to take to stop those people.”

Nides, who was accused of drawing an equivalency between Israelis killed in a Palestinian terror shooting on Tuesday and Palestinians killed during an IDF raid of Jenin on Monday, was careful to condemn the former attack in its own right.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides speaks at an event in Jerusalem on February 19, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

“My heart breaks for the families who lost a loved one 48 hours ago. We need to make sure that justice is done properly,” he said.

But the ambassador went on to insist that there was nothing wrong with having sympathy for both sides of the conflict. “I can have an emotional connection to the Israeli families and also the Palestinian families. No one wants to stand by and watch that happen. My heart breaks for all these families.”

Nides reiterated the administration’s commitment to the two-state solution while acknowledging that the stance of those in Washington is not enough. “We can’t want peace more than the parties want peace. The people have got to want it. It takes the next generation. It’s this generation of people who will have to demand of the politicians to do the right thing.”

“This room is the future. Don’t listen to those politicians. They’re not the future. You are,” he said to the several dozen youths in the room — 15 Israelis and 20 Palestinians from Nablus, Hebron, Jenin and villages next to Turmus Ayya, which was assaulted by settlers on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Israeli settlers tore through the Palestinian town on Wednesday afternoon, setting property alight and assailing residents shortly after Israeli victims of Tuesday’s attack were buried. One Palestinian was killed and another 12 were wounded during the rampage.

The settler violence continued on Thursday as well, after the IDF acknowledged on Wednesday that it was not equipped to combat the phenomenon while also dealing with Palestinian terrorism.

In Urif, settlers were filmed vandalizing cars, torching a school, hurling stones at homes and ransacking a mosque. One suspect was seen on video apparently tearing up the pages of a Quran.

Footage from Jaloud showed settlers had encroached into the village and were clashing with Palestinian locals. Both sides were filmed hurling stones as a fire was set to a section of the Palestinian farmlands.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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