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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS

Biden imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers accused of West Bank violence

Biden imposes sanctions on Israeli settlers accused of West Bank violence
US President Joe Biden. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Shawn Thew)

US President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Thursday that aims to punish Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians envisage a future state.

The Biden administration on Thursday imposed sanctions on four Israeli men it accused of being involved in settler violence in the West Bank, signalling growing US displeasure with the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Thursday that aims to punish Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians envisage a future state.

The order establishes a system for imposing financial sanctions and visa restrictions against individuals who attack or intimidate Palestinians or seize their property, said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

“Today’s actions seek to promote peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

United Nations figures show that daily settler attacks have more than doubled in the nearly four months since Hamas carried out an attack on Israel on 7 October, and Israel responded with an assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The State Department sanctions freeze the US assets of the four men and generally bar Americans from dealing with them. A State Department statement said:

  • David Chai Chasdai initiated and led a riot that included setting vehicles and buildings on fire and causing damage to property in Huwara, resulting in the death of a Palestinian civilian.
  • Einan Tanjil assaulted Palestinian farmers and Israeli activists by attacking them with stones and clubs, resulting in injuries that required medical treatment.
  • Shalom Zicherman, according to video evidence, assaulted Israeli activists and their vehicles in the West Bank, blocking them on the street, attempted to break the windows of passing vehicles with activists inside, and cornered at least two of the activists and injured both.
  • Yinon Levi led a group of settlers that assaulted Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, burnt their fields and destroyed their property.

“Israel must do more to stop violence against civilians in the West Bank and hold accountable those responsible for it,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement.

Two-state solution

“The United States will continue to take actions to advance the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution, and is committed to the safety, security and dignity of Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Biden and other senior US officials have warned repeatedly that Israel must act to stop violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Biden has raised the issue directly with Netanyahu, said one senior official, as Biden seeks a path to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians once the Gaza conflict ends. Netanyahu, who heads a religious-rightist coalition, has resisted US entreaties to develop a plan for post-conflict Gaza and to embrace a peace deal that envisages Israeli and Palestinian states side by side.

His office on Thursday responded to the US steps by saying they were unnecessary.

“Israel takes action against all law-breakers everywhere, and therefore there is no need for unusual measures on the issue,” it said.

The West Bank, among the territories along with Gaza where Palestinians seek statehood, has experienced a surge of violence in recent months amid expanding Jewish settlements and a nearly decade-old impasse in US-sponsored peacemaking.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right pro-settlement party Religious Zionism, was defiant in a statement on the Biden order:

“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an anti-Semitic lie that enemies of Israel disseminate with the goal of smearing the pioneering settlers and settlement enterprise, and to harm them and thus smear the entire State of Israel,” Smotrich said.

In December, the US began imposing visa bans on people involved in violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied the West Bank of the Jordan River, which Palestinians want as the core of an independent state. It has built Jewish settlements there that most countries deem illegal. Israel disputes this and cites historical and biblical ties to the land.

Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on 7 October, precipitating an Israeli offensive that has laid waste to much of Gaza. Health officials in the enclave said on Thursday the confirmed death toll had risen above 27,000, with thousands more dead still lying under the rubble. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    This is the first admission America is making that there is illegal settler comitting atrocities against Palestinians.
    But he is not fooling anyone by leaving the Israel state occupying and promoting these acts.
    He has lost voters in 9 states for his support of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

  • John P says:

    Could this be the beginning of the end for the West’s unequivocal support of Israel, of the “support them no matter what diplomacy” of the last few decades? We need to support Israel itself but whilst denouncing their actions in Gaza, the ongoing program of illegal settlements and the illegal occupation of certain lands all with a view to a negotiated peacfull settlement for all parties.

    • JP K says:

      I’m not sure. Look at the scale of the horror that the US is directly supporting by providing armaments to Israel as well as political cover. Even before the latest war in Gaza, the US was in contravention of the Leahy Law which prevents arms sales to human rights abusers such as Israel. The imposition of sanctions on 4 settlers in response to possible genocide even as they bankroll the butchery is how the world works. The last time Israel and the US were having issues was around 2010 when during former vice president Biden’s visit to Israel, Israel expanded settlements (relations between the 2 countries were at their lowest since 1975) – wars etc. in between notwithstanding. For real. They were embarrassed.

      So, even if the US is not happy, this is surely nothing but a fig-leaf necessary for the embarrassment the lunatic state of Israel is causing to the US and hardly any indication of a change in support. I’m supprised though that they don’t reign Israel in more given the very real risk of conflagration in the region for example if Hezbollah or Iran get involved.

      But who knows? Israel is not done yet and the genocide process it has started by destroying the conditions necessary for life won’t stop even if there is an immediate ceasefire. But even so, it might become more and more difficult to justify this support as the death toll from disease and hunger rises. For me, this highlights the world order. Some people really don’t matter.

  • John P says:

    No one sided comments from the usual pro and against protagonists?

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