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Israeli banks freeze accounts after US sanctions over ‘settler violence’

Under President Joe Biden's executive order, U.S. individuals and companies are barred from providing any assets or services to Yinon Levi, David Chisdai, Einan Tanjil and Shalom Zicherman.

Bank Leumi chairman Samer Haj-Yehia speaks at a conference held at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, Feb. 21, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Bank Leumi chairman Samer Haj-Yehia speaks at a conference held at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, Feb. 21, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli banks have frozen the accounts of two Judea residents, shortly after the United States announced sanctions for alleged attacks against neighboring Palestinians.

Bank Leumi—Israel’s largest bank—informed Yinon Levi, a farmer, by phone that both his private and business accounts would be closed, effective immediately, Israeli media reported on Sunday. Levi has not been indicted or convicted of any crimes in Israel.

On Monday, a second Israeli residing in Judea and Samaria sanctioned by the United States had his Israeli bank account frozen. David Chai Chasdai’s account at the state-owned Postal Bank, which he shares with his wife, was suspended.

On Thursday, U.S. President Joe Biden issued an executive order sanctioning “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.”

Adopting what it calls a “holistic approach” to the Middle East regional crisis, the White House named four Israelis as the targets of sanctions: Levim, from Meitarim Farm; Chasdai, from Givat Ronen; Einan Tanjil from Kiryat Ekron; and Shalom Zicherman from Mitzpe Yair.

The State Department accuses Levi of leading a group of Israeli citizens said to have “engaged in actions creating an atmosphere of fear” in Judea, including by carrying out attacks against Palestinian and Bedouin civilians in the village of Khirbet Zanuta and destroying their property.

Levi denies the accusations.

“The executive order is a result of requests to Biden by the anarchist, anti-Zionist left, which hates the Jewish people and made up a bunch of stories about Israel’s pioneers,” he told Hebrew media on Sunday.

“Biden, who is unable to deal with the Houthis who murder American soldiers, doesn’t scare us. We will continue to settle the Land of Israel without fear,” he added.

Under Biden’s executive order, U.S. individuals and companies are barred from providing any assets or services to Levi.

Israel’s Walla news site reported that Bank Hapoalim is preparing to close the accounts of Tanjil and Zicherman “in the near future.”

“Bank Hapoalim respects the international sanctions and will comply with any legal order. For reasons of banking confidentiality, we will not be able to respond to specific cases,” a spokesperson told the outlet.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich blasted the White House’s measures as an “absurd order without justification” and vowed to “make sure that banks do not harm the citizens of Israel.” The Jewish state is “not a banana republic of the United States,” added the minister.

Following a visit to Levi’s home on Sunday, Religious Zionism Party Knesset member Zvi Sukkot said he would also urge fellow lawmakers to hold an urgent discussion on the matter.

Meanwhile, Canada announced it would follow the United States in imposing sanctions on Israeli citizens accused of inciting violence in Judea and Samaria, alongside measures against Hamas terror leaders in Gaza.

“We’re working actively on it,” Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Sunday, speaking from Ukraine. “I’m making sure that while I’m in Ukraine, the work is being done in Ottawa and I look forward to doing an announcement soon.”

According to Israeli Police figures made public in November, in the period from the current Hamas war’s start on Oct. 7 through Nov. 7, there were 97 incidents of illegal activities attributed to Jews in Judea and Samaria, down from 184 offenses in the same period in 2022.

Between Oct. 7 and Jan. 15, the Hatzalah Judea and Samaria rescue group recorded more than 2,600 terrorist attacks against Israelis in the area, including 760 cases of rock-throwing, 551 fire bombings, 12 attempted or successful stabbings and nine vehicular assaults.

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