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Smotrich: Israel will fight until all sanctions against ‘settlers’ lifted

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich denounced "unprecedented sanctions on Israeli citizens whose entire sin is that they settle in Judea and Samaria."

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel will continue to fight until all Western sanctions against Judea and Samaria residents are lifted, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told lawmakers of his Religious Zionism Party at the Knesset on Monday.

Addressing reporters ahead of a faction meeting, Smotrich denounced “unprecedented sanctions on Israeli citizens whose entire sin is that they settle in Judea and Samaria and guard the lands of our country.”

“We will not agree to this and will fight with all our might against it,” Smotrich told fellow party members, according to local media.

On Feb 1., President Joe Biden issued an executive order sanctioning individuals accused of “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.”

A handful of other countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France, have since followed suit. European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell signaled last month that the bloc is likewise seeking to financially punish Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria.

Faced with the prospect of being cut off from the international monetary system, Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim and the state-owned Postal Bank all took action against the sanctioned Israeli citizens.

However, after Smotrich threatened last week not to sign a waiver protecting Israeli banks with business ties to the Palestinian Authority from lawsuits, Washington informed Jerusalem that there is no need for local banks to prevent “transactions involving basic subsistence.”

Israeli banks can process transactions “necessary to basic human needs or subsistence without exposure to…sanctions risk, provided these transactions do not involve the U.S. financial system or U.S. persons,” the U.S. Department of the Treasury informed Smotrich’s office.

Local financial institutions are also allowed to process transactions for “expenses essential for the survival of animals on farms that are blocked as a result of a designation of their owners,” the U.S. missive added.

The letter listed several examples of permitted transactions, including payments for medical care, childcare, housing, education, transportation, utilities, funeral expenses and government fees.

Simcha Rothman, chairman of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee and a member of Smotrich’s party, congratulated the minister, writing on X that “there are two important lessons here. 1. That a firm stand for the State of Israel’s sovereignty is not only a duty, but that it leads the world power to understand that it has crossed the line. 2. That [Smotrich] knows how to set this red line without flinching.”

The number of violent incidents committed by Jews against Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria has continued to drop sharply in recent months, according to data presented to the Israeli Cabinet last month.

Since Oct. 7, 2023, when Hamas launched its war against Israel, to Feb. 24, 2024, authorities registered 256 such incidents. This is compared to 489 incidents of nationalist crime committed by Jews in Judea and Samaria, including 26 attacks on Israeli security forces, during the same period the previous year.

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