(Washington) The United States raised its tone vis-à-vis Israel on Tuesday, saying it was “extremely concerned” by a vote in the Israeli parliament deemed “provocative” and denouncing comments by an Israeli minister denying the existence of the Palestinian people.
“The United States is extremely concerned that the Israeli Knesset has passed legislation reversing significant portions of the 2005 Disengagement Act,” State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.
“The legislative changes announced today are particularly provocative and counterproductive to our efforts to restore some calm as we enter the periods of Ramadan and Easter celebrations,” he said during a briefing.
The settler movement won a victory in Israel’s parliament on Tuesday by overturning a law banning Israelis from traveling to an area in the northern West Bank from which Jewish residents were evacuated in 2005.
In 2005, Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, evacuating Jewish settlements in this Palestinian territory as well as four settlements in the northern West Bank, around Nablus.
The law passed to allow this disengagement has since prohibited Israelis from traveling to these areas, but an amendment finally adopted in a vote in Parliament now allows them to return to the evacuated part of the northern West Bank.
The US spokesman called on Israel “not to allow the return of settlers” to the area, while refusing to discuss possible reprisals against the Israeli government.
He also called “offensive” and “dangerous” the comments of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who on Sunday in Paris denied the existence of Palestinians as individuals and as a people.
“We consider these comments to be not only inaccurate, but also disturbing and dangerous,” Vedant Patel said, noting, however, that the minister was “not the only individual in the Israeli government.”
Smotrich made the statements on the same day of talks in Egypt in an attempt to ease tensions ahead of Ramadan, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sucked into a new spiral of violence that has already left more than 100 people dead since the beginning of the year.