President Joe Biden announced on Thursday the imposition of sanctions on four Israeli settlers, marking a rare action against Israelis by the United States. The decision comes as violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank has reached what Biden described as “intolerable levels.”
The executive order, signed by Biden, emphasized the urgency of addressing extremist settler violence, forced displacement, and property destruction, stating that these actions pose a serious threat to peace, security, and stability. The sanctions target individuals accused of leading violent incidents, including David Chai Chasdai, allegedly involved in a riot resulting in the death of a Palestinian civilian in Huwara, and Yinon Levi, accused of leading assaults on Palestinian and Bedouin civilians.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed the need for Israel to take more substantial measures to stop violence against civilians in the West Bank and hold those responsible accountable. He warned against actions jeopardizing the creation of a Palestinian state, a stance opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government.
Israel responded critically to the sanctions, arguing that the “overwhelming majority” of its citizens in the West Bank are law-abiding. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller noted that while Israel had prosecuted three of the four settlers, further action was deemed necessary.
This marks the first instance of financial sanctions against Israeli settlers, complementing the Biden administration’s earlier decision to deny visas to extremists involved in violence. The move comes amidst heightened tensions following the Hamas attack in Gaza on October 7, with Biden defending Israel’s right to respond but expressing frustration over civilian casualties.
The escalating violence has sparked discontent within the Arab American community, a significant demographic in Michigan, where Biden was addressing concerns during his trip. However, the mayor of a Detroit suburb refused to meet with Biden, citing dissatisfaction with the President’s stance on pressing Israel to end its military campaign.
The year 2023 saw Israeli settlers causing significant turmoil, with at least 10 Palestinians killed and numerous homes torched in the West Bank, marking it as the “most violent” year on record for settler attacks, according to human rights group Yesh Din. Approximately 490,000 settlers reside among three million Palestinians in the West Bank, in settlements considered illegal under international law.
The Biden administration, in a departure from the Trump era, is renewing calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, further intensifying the diplomatic challenges in the region.