newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Biden admin to sanction entire Jewish outposts over ‘settler violence’

IDF officials told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month that “there is no such concept as settler violence” in Judea and Samaria.

A Jewish settler rides his horse near the outpost of Ramat Migron on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
A Jewish settler rides his horse near the outpost of Ramat Migron on Sept. 8, 2023. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

The Biden administration is expected to impose new sanctions as early as Thursday on two Jewish outposts located beyond the Green Line that were allegedly used to launch attacks against Palestinians, according to an Axios report.

The prospective sanctions to counter “settler violence” will also target three Israelis, said the report, citing three U.S. officials.

The penalties would freeze the U.S.-based assets of the individuals and communities, ban those targeted from obtaining a visa to enter the United States and block their access to the U.S. financial system.

In February, Biden issued an unprecedented executive order allowing for sanctions on “persons undermining peace, security and stability in the West Bank,” citing “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages and property destruction.”

The White House named four Israelis as targets for sanctions: David Chai Chasdai of Givat Ronen; Yinon Levi of Meitarim Farm; Einan Tanjil of Kiryat Ekron; and Shalom Zicherman of Mitzpe Yair.

The United Kingdom and France quickly followed suit.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time that “the overwhelming majority of residents in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are currently fighting—as conscripts and reservists—to defend Israel.”

His government “acts against all Israelis who break the law, everywhere. Exceptional measures are unnecessary,” added the premier.

During a call last month with Biden, Netanyahu criticized the administration’s move, which allows the imposition of penalties on Israeli officials directly or indirectly involved in vaguely defined “settler violence,” noting it could have implications for the entire country, including the political and defense establishments.

During the call, Netanyahu expressed displeasure especially given the decrease in the number of attacks against Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. Data has shown that such violence has been dropping for some time; Israel’s former foreign minister Eli Cohen in January called reports of growing “settler violence” a “blood libel” and “a lie disconnected from reality.”

According to Axios, Biden told Netanyahu that he would continue to slap sanctions on Jews in Judea and Samaria.

On Tuesday, a representative of the Israel Police told lawmakers at the Knesset that far-left groups were increasingly spreading false accusations against Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria, causing severe harm to the state’s international standing.

“Since the beginning of the war, there has been an upsurge in complaints from Palestinians and anarchists,” Ch. Supt. Avishay Mualem, the commander responsible for police activity in Judea and Samaria, told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

An investigation showed that some 50% of the complaints filed by left-wing groups in recent months have been false, said Mualem.

According to data gathered by authorities, compared to the same period last year, the past four months saw a decrease of 50% in the number of violent incidents committed against Palestinians in Judea and Samaria.

Between Oct. 7, 2022, and Feb. 24, 2023, authorities recorded 489 incidents of nationalist crime committed by Jews in Judea and Samaria. In the period from Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas launched its war against Israel, to Feb. 24, 2024, authorities registered 256 such incidents.

Representatives of the Israel Defense Forces told members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last month that “there is no such concept as settler violence” in Judea and Samaria.

“There is nationalistic crime, but we are talking about a few incidents. … We have great respect for the residents of Judea and Samaria. They are our brothers, and it is our job to ensure their safety,” the senior IDF officials told lawmakers during the closed-door meeting.

Meanwhile, Judea and Samaria saw a dramatic rise in Palestinian attacks in 2023 compared to the previous year, with shootings reaching their highest level since the Second Intifada of 2000-05, IDF data shows.

Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15, Rescuers Without Borders first responders recorded more than 2,600 Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis in Judea and Samaria, including 760 cases of rock-throwing, 551 fire bombings, 12 attempted or successful stabbings and nine vehicular assaults.

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