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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Biden imposes sanctions on four Israeli settlers alleged to have assaulted Palestinians in the West Bank

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WASHINGTON — In a significant move, President Joe‌ Biden issued an executive order on Thursday, imposing financial sanctions and visa⁢ bans on Israeli settlers in the West Bank. These individuals ⁤have been accused of launching attacks on ‌Palestinians in​ the ⁢occupied ‌territory.⁤ This initial round of sanctions⁤ targets four individuals specifically.

According to the executive order, these settlers have been involved in violent acts, threats, and⁢ attempts to destroy or seize Palestinian property. The‌ sanctions aim to prevent these four individuals from utilizing the U.S. financial‍ system and prohibit American citizens from engaging in transactions with them. ⁣U.S. officials are currently assessing whether to ​impose similar penalties on others involved in the escalating​ attacks during the Israel-Hamas ⁤conflict.

Palestinian authorities and rights groups have reported ‌that some Palestinians have been killed, and settlers have set fire to cars and attacked several small Bedouin communities, leading to ⁣forced evacuations.

“The​ violence instigated by these settlers poses a serious threat to peace, security, and stability in the West⁤ Bank,​ Israel, and the broader Middle East region. It also jeopardizes the national security and foreign policy interests of the United States,” stated Jake Sullivan, White House national⁤ security adviser.

President Biden has been facing increasing criticism for his administration’s staunch ‍support of Israel amidst⁣ the rising casualties in the ongoing conflict. The conflict was initiated when Hamas, the militant group ruling Gaza, attacked ⁢Israel on Oct. 7.

Despite the criticism, Biden ‌has⁤ maintained that Israel, as America’s closest ‌ally in the ‍Middle East,‌ has the right to defend itself. However, he ⁢has urged Israeli Prime Minister⁢ Benjamin Netanyahu’s ⁤government to exercise greater restraint ‍in its military operations targeting Hamas.

The executive order also highlights that the⁣ violence perpetrated by settlers undermines‍ U.S. foreign policy objectives,‌ including‌ the viability ⁢of a two-state solution and ensuring equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom ​for both Israelis and Palestinians.

Biden has revitalized calls for an independent Palestinian state that would coexist with Israel, a​ goal that has remained elusive for American presidents and Middle East diplomats for decades. ⁤He has emphasized that establishing Palestinian sovereignty post the ⁣Israel-Hamas war is crucial for building lasting⁤ peace.

However, Netanyahu has consistently rejected ‍this idea ⁤throughout his political career and has informed​ U.S. officials of his opposition to any ‍postwar plan that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Biden has condemned retaliatory attacks by‍ Israeli settlers and assured that those responsible⁣ for the violence will be held accountable. He likened the ‍violence by “extremist settlers” to “pouring gasoline” on the already ​inflamed situation in the Middle East. “It has to stop. They have to be held accountable. It ​has to ⁢stop now,”⁢ Biden asserted.

Following ‌the onset of the war, Israel Defense Forces intensified raids across the West ⁤Bank.​ While Hamas militants are present in the​ West Bank, they largely operate underground⁤ due to Israel’s tight control ​over the territory. Palestinians‌ have accused the Israeli military of failing to prevent attacks by settlers and, in⁤ some instances, of even protecting these settlers.

On Wednesday, Sullivan met with Ron Dermer, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, at the White House. U.S. officials confirmed that the Israeli government was informed in advance about the sanctions.

The executive order empowers the Treasury Department to impose⁣ financial sanctions on settlers involved in violence. However, ⁢it is not intended to target U.S. citizens. A significant number of settlers in the West Bank hold U.S. citizenship, and they would be prohibited under ⁤U.S. law from conducting transactions with the sanctioned individuals.

U.S. lawmakers have focused‍ on the role ‌of Americans ​or dual citizens in the settler violence and intimidation. In ⁣a letter ⁢last month, Sen. Ben Cardin, chairman of ​the Senate Foreign ‍Relations Committee, urged the White House to take action against ‍any U.S. citizens​ involved in attacks against Palestinians. This could include criminal charges and financial sanctions.

“We must⁢ send a strong message against the extreme activities undertaken by some settlers on the West Bank, which endanger the lives of Palestinians and jeopardize peace in the region,” Cardin, D-Md., told reporters on Thursday.

The news ‌of Biden’s order was first reported by Politico.

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