update deskIsrael News

Honenu to defend Israelis sanctioned by US administration

Honenu announced that its attorneys had sent a "warning letter" to the Bank of Israel demanding that the Israelis' bank accounts be unfrozen.

Attorneys of the Honenu legal defense group speak to the media before a court hearing in Lod, July 12, 2023. Photo by Jonathan Shaul/Flash90.
Attorneys of the Honenu legal defense group speak to the media before a court hearing in Lod, July 12, 2023. Photo by Jonathan Shaul/Flash90.

The Honenu lawyer’s collective, which represents Israelis sanctioned by the Biden administration for “undermining peace” in Judea and Samaria, on Tuesday filed a complaint with local regulatory authorities as the first step in a legal battle aimed at having the sanctions removed.

Honenu retained Dr. J. Weinroth & Co. Law Office, which has also defended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past, to represent “the heroic farmers who are suddenly forced to think about how to transfer 100 shekels to the babysitter or how to get gas,” the group said.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order targeting “persons undermining peace, security and stability” in Judea and Samaria, citing “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages and property destruction.”

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

Faced with the prospect of being cut off from the U.S. monetary system, Bank Leumi—Israel’s largest bank—subsequently informed Levi that his accounts would be suspended. Chasdai had his account at the state-owned Postal Bank frozen, while reports indicated that Tanjil’s and Zicherman’s accounts at Bank Hapoalim would follow shortly.

On Wednesday, Honenu announced that its attorneys had sent a “warning letter” to the Bank of Israel on behalf of the four families, demanding that the supervisor order the three financial institutions to “immediately remove all restrictions that were imposed on the bank accounts of the farmers.”

In the letter, Honenu stressed that Israeli banks have discretionary powers in individual cases and must examine the “unique and particular circumstances” of their customers before acting upon sanctions imposed by foreign countries.

Honenu vowed to “stand alongside these heroes who were hurt by the visceral hatred for the settlement” of Judea and Samaria.

“Our appeal to the supervisor is the first action within the framework of the legal procedures that we intend to take, as long as the cardinal damage is not rectified,” the organization said.

On Tuesday, attorney Marc Zell announced he would be filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government, the Department of Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.

The suit will challenge the legality of Biden’s executive order, which was issued under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, the National Emergencies Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The suit is currently being drafted, and is expected to be filed within a couple of weeks. Zell is currently speaking to any potential plaintiffs.

Also this week, Israeli lawmaker Amit Halevi summoned a meeting of the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee on Wednesday to explore ways Jerusalem can come to the aid of citizens who face sanctions.

“If the issue cannot be solved through political channels and if the regulator, the Bank of Israel, does not put out clear instructions, we suggest a new law. In these cases—when there are sanctions of foreign states of Israeli citizens—we must back those citizens,” Halevi told JNS.

One of the options suggested by coalition lawmakers during the committee meeting on Wednesday entails the Israeli government providing an open-ended loan to affected families.

“We’re not talking about sanctions against businessmen that have billions, like [Roman] Abramovich, because he did business with Russia; we’re talking about simple families that work in agriculture. We must defend their right to live,” said Halevi.

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