As much of the world’s attention has focused on the ongoing carnage in Gaza, where Israel’s war of retribution will soon enter its fourth month, the issue of rising Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank largely fell by the wayside. But on Thursday, the Biden administration unveiled an executive order imposing new financial sanctions on Israeli settlers who have been implicated in such violence, in what is perhaps the most significant step taken by any U.S. administration on the issue to date.
“The situation in the West Bank—in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction—has reached intolerable levels,” the order reads, dubbing the unprecedented levels of settler violence a threat to both the region and to U.S. personnel and interests.
Although only four Israeli settlers have been targeted in the first round of sanctions—for actions that include initiating and leading deadly riots, assaulting civilians, and destroying property, according to Haaretz—the scope of the order is much wider, applying to any foreign individual deemed to have directed or participated in violence against Palestinian civilians, including intimidation, terror, and property damage and seizure. Most notably, the order can also apply to Israeli leaders or government officials deemed to have engaged directly or indirectly in such violence.
Matt Duss, the executive vice president of the Center for International Policy and a former chief foreign policy advisor to Sen. Bernie Sanders, told TIME the move constitutes a “big step” by the Biden administration and could be a “potentially very big tool.” He says the administration is “doing the S part of BDS,” referencing the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that seeks to mobilize international pressure on Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories. “This will send shockwaves through this entire economic infrastructure, both in Israel but also in the United States and elsewhere in the world, that exists to fund these illegal activities.”
The order was roundly criticized by far-right ministers in the Israeli government, under which the country’s settlement enterprise has flourished. The country’s national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is himself a settler, wrote that Biden “is wrong about the citizens of the State of Israel and the heroic settlers” and urged his administration to “rethink its policy.” Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also resides in a West Bank settlement, dismissed the very notion of settler violence as an “anti-Semitic lie” and pledged to continue his work in expanding Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law. “If the price is the imposition of American sanctions on me,” he wrote in an X post, “so be it.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office called the sanctions “exceptional” and “unnecessary.”
How the Biden administration chooses to use this new foreign-policy stick, and on whom, will ultimately determine the impact that it has. “These individuals are going to have U.S.-based assets frozen, their financial transactions will not be able to go through U.S. financing institutions. and people will not be able to support them financially either—that’s a big deal,” says Yousef Munayyer, a nonresident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, D.C. and an expert on Israeli and Palestinian affairs. “The extent to which that actually becomes enforceable really depends on how many people you put on this list and who those individuals are.” [Continue reading…]
Biden's executive order imposing sanctions against Israeli settlers in the West Bank who are involved in escalating violence against the Palestinians apparently does not include violence by settlers who are US citizens, or settler violence in East Jerusalem. https://t.co/0l8zSggYuL
— Shibley Telhami (@ShibleyTelhami) February 1, 2024
The Biden administration should use this executive order to immediately sanction Israeli government officials who are enabling settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. Just as importantly, President Biden must end American support for the Israeli government’s genocidal war on the people of Gaza. It makes no sense for the Biden administration to oppose killing Palestinian civilians in the West Bank while enabling the killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Does the newly sanctioned David Chai Chasdai (shown in the photo below) actually possess any U.S. assets? I suspect not.
Meet the 4 Israeli settlers subject to the first round of U.S. sanctions made possible by Biden's West bank executive order.
They're responsible for leading riots, setting buildings on fire & assaulting civilians, resulting in Palestinian civilian's deathhttps://t.co/7ZKShV1oZy
— Ben Samuels (@Bsamuels0) February 1, 2024