Israel should do more to stop “extremist settler” violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, said a recent statement of “grave concern” issued by 14 countries, including Canada.
“We strongly condemn the violent acts committed by extremist settlers, which are terrorizing Palestinian communities,” said the statement released last Friday.
“Israel, as the occupying power, must protect the Palestinian civilian population in the West Bank,” it later adds.
The United Nations says violence in the Palestinian territory has risen at an unprecedented rate since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants prompted Israel to bombard the Gaza Strip, which is a separate Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas.
Armed groups living in Israeli settlements, deemed illegal under international law, have attacked Palestinians hundreds of times in the West Bank, which Canada considers to be an Israel-occupied Palestinian territory. The statement said there have been 343 violent attacks since the start of October that have killed eight Palestinian civilians and forced more than 1,200 Palestinians to leave their homes.
Canada joined the European Union and 13 countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia and France, in issuing the statement on Friday that urged Israel to bring those behind the attacks to justice.
“Israel’s failure to protect Palestinians and prosecute extremist settlers has led to an environment of near complete impunity, in which settler violence has reached unprecedented levels. This undermines security in the West Bank and the region and threatens prospects for a lasting peace,” the statement reads.
It noted that Israel pledged last month to take action against violent perpetrators, but laments the lack of “proactive steps” to follow through on that promise.
Global Affairs Canada posted Friday’s statement on its website, but did not share it on social media as it has often done for other joint declarations with like-minded countries.
Israel’s embassy in Ottawa did not immediately comment Monday on the joint statement endorsed by Canada.
In an interview last week, Israel’s ambassador to Canada suggested that Israel gives more weight to international concerns about its government policies, including violence in the West Bank, when they are expressed countries that also provide more support. He gave the example of the U.S. having deployed aircraft carriers to the region.
“We have a democratically elected government that deals with the issues, including violence in the West Bank, to the best of its ability. There can always be improvements. And I’m sure there must be improvements. But there is a way to go between observing the reality and making comments about how it should look like,” Iddo Moed said Dec. 13.
“In order for Israel to take these comments seriously, I think that other countries also have to show genuine interest and contribute to Israel’s well-being, security and future, the way that for example, the Biden administration has done.”
The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly did not provide a response those comments on Monday.
The UN humanitarian agency says this year has been the deadliest for Palestinians in the West Bank since it started recording casualties in 2005, in part due to Israeli military raids and airstrikes. Israel has argued it is targeting militants in an effort to prevent armed resistance to the occupation from destabilizing the entire region.
Britain and the United States have recently imposed travel bans on extremist Israeli settlers. Two days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the move for his country, federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller was asked whether Canada would follow suit.
Miller told reporters that Canada tends to view these decisions through the lens of criminal acts in general, rather than listing a group of people as inadmissible.
“We don’t want people that have committed crimes, particularly crimes of this egregious nature, given the geopolitical context, (to) make their way into Canada,” Miller said Dec. 7.
“Canada has typically adopted a case-by-case basis, but it’s information that we are working with the U.S. on,” said Miller.
His office did not have any further details to add Monday.
Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2023.