Biden administration sanctions 4 Israeli settlers for perpetrating violence in the West Bank

Biden's executive order comes just before a campaign event in Michigan.

Tan Min-Wei | February 03, 2024, 06:05 PM

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On February 2, Joe Biden announced his administration was imposing sanctions on four Israelis who were accused of being involved in violence towards Palestinians in the West Bank.


The Biden administration issued an executive order imposing financial sanctions and travel restrictions against any non-U.S. citizen who threatened the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank.

Biden said in a statement that the “situation in the West Bank”, particularly the “high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction” had reached "intolerable levels".

"These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom. They also undermine the security of Israel and have the potential to lead to broader regional destabilisation across the Middle East, threatening United States personnel and interests.”

The initial wave of sanctions targets Israeli citizens who the Biden administration said had taken part in or inciting violence within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, according to Reuters.

U.S. Secretary Of State Antony Blinken said that Israel must do more to stop violence against civilians in the West Bank and hold accountable those responsible for it.

The executive order freezes the assets of anyone who has been sanctioned and bans U.S. citizens and financial institutions from doing business with them.

According to The Guardian, the four individuals that have been sanctioned represent the first wave of sanctions, and U.S. officials were considering further sanctions that might target officials.

Axios reports that the Biden administration has also considered including Israeli ultranationalist government ministers in the sanctions such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich.

However, Israel's government has pushed back, with the Israeli prime minister's office saying that the executive order is not needed, with the vast majority of settlers being law-abiding citizens.

The executive order is targeted towards actions that are taking place in the West Bank.

The West Bank is nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority, in contrast to the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

The current conflict is predominantly in Gaza, after a Hamas attack on Southern Israel on Oct. 7 killed 1,200, resulting in Israel’s ongoing military response, which has killed over 25,000 so far.

Since the Oct. 7 attack, there has been an increase in violence in the West Bank, with a large number of attacks on residents by Israeli settlers, prompting this response by the U.S.

International criticism

The move comes as Israel faces significant international criticism over its actions in Gaza, through numerous United Nations votes calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, or in cases being brought against it in the International Court of Justice.

Israel's government has also repeatedly stated that it does not support the establishment of a Palestinian state, in contrast to the statements from its staunch allies the U.S. and United Kingdom.

The U.S. and UK have indicated they are considering recognising a Palestinian state, regardless of Israel’s objections.

Domestic Concerns

Biden's move also signals concerns about his reelection campaign, with Americans set to vote in November 2024.

Just after issuing the executive order, Biden attended a campaign event in Michigan, home of the U.S.’s largest Arab American community.

Arab Americans have generally held a critical view of Biden's actions, or inactions, related to war in Israel, with his support dropping from nearly 60 per cent to just under 20 per cent in recent months, according to The New York Times.

This hints at the two sets of concerns the Biden administration has over the Israel-Hamas war.

On the one hand, the U.S. and Israel are staunch allies, and The Guardian reports the administration fears too much critique will leave Biden vulnerable to accusations from his Republican opposition that he is hostile to Israel.

However, Michigan and its Arab American and Muslim American support was critical in delivering the important swing state to Biden by just under three per cent of the state's vote during the 2020 Presidential Elections.

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Top image via Joe Biden/Facebook