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Biden Orders Sanctions On Israeli Settlers In West Bank

What Does Biden's Orders Against Israeli Settlers Mean and Why Did He Do It Now?

By: Emily Reid


On February 1st 2024, US President Biden issued an executive order to Israeli settlers in the West Bank, who are known to be attacking Palestinians. The announcement occurred amid frustration in Washington towards Israel surrounding their war in Gaza and before President Biden was due to visit electoral swing-state Michigan, which has a notably large Arab American population. In the order, Biden said that extremist settler violence in the West Bank had “reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region.”


Image by: Prachatai from Flickr


Palestinian authorities reported that some Palestinians have been killed, with human rights groups adding that settlers torched cars and attacked several Bedouin communities, forcing evacuations. The executive order imposes financial sanctions and visa bans against four individuals; David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil, Yinon Levi and Shalom Zickerman. The sanctions will freeze their assets in the US and restrict financial dealings. The US is further evaluating whether to punish others involved in the attacks that have intensified since October 7th, 2023.


The order is a rare step against America’s closest ally in the Middle East. The Biden administration has been facing criticism for its unwavering support of Israel, until this point, as Biden has pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government to show some restraint in its military operations aimed at rooting out Hamas. The Biden administration had also considered moves targeting two far-right Israeli ministers, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.


People have interpreted this order in two different ways. The action could be a matter of electability, meaning this could be seen as an attempt to ‘win back’ the support of Arab Americans for the upcoming election. Alternatively, the Biden administration could have decided to assert its influence over Israel now because the US is ready and willing to act.


The former director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Yousef Munayyer, was doubtful that the President’s executive order would be enough to quell Arab American anger over his support for Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians to date, most of whom were civilians. However, he said the decision was still significant as it represented an uncommon US exercise to sanction Israelis over their violations of Palestinian rights. “That is the test that will tell us whether this is a serious effort at addressing a real problem on the ground or an unserious effort at trying to save face for Biden in an election year with voters appalled at his handling of Palestine.”


These orders do not target Israeli officials who have enabled violence in the West Bank to begin with, nor affect the crisis in Gaza. It is, however, a rare and potentially promising step that addresses the crisis in the Middle East.


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