Executive Order Targets Israeli Settlers Involved in Violence in West Bank

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday targeting Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The order imposes financial sanctions and visa bans on four individuals accused of attacking Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in the occupied territory.

The sanctions were imposed on settlers involved in acts of violence, threats, and attempts to seize Palestinian property. These penalties aim to block the individuals from using the U.S. financial system and prohibit American citizens from dealing with them. The U.S. is also evaluating whether to punish others involved in the intensified attacks that occurred during the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The executive order represents a rare step against America’s closest ally in the Middle East. President Biden, while acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself, has pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to exercise greater restraint in its military operations aimed at rooting out Hamas. In response, Netanyahu denounced the U.S. penalties.

According to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, the violence by Israeli settlers poses a grave threat to peace, security, and stability in the region, and it undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives, including the viability of a two-state solution.

The order also reflects Biden’s reinvigorated call for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel, a goal that has eluded American presidents and Middle East diplomats for decades. However, this has been met with resistance from Netanyahu, who has opposed the establishment of a Palestinian state throughout his political career.

In addition to the executive order, the Treasury Department issued an alert to financial institutions to watch for transactions that might benefit “extremist” settlers in the West Bank. The alert provides banks with possible red flags to consider when determining whether to mark transactions as suspicious.

Criticism of Biden’s support of Israel has been growing as casualties mount in the conflict. Arab and Muslim leaders have expressed concern over the president’s handling of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. The administration has faced pressure from various quarters, including U.S. lawmakers who have urged action against U.S. citizens involved in attacks against Palestinians.

The State Department, in a statement, identified the four settlers and described the accusations against them. This comes as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, with repercussions being felt domestically as well, including in some key presidential battleground states like Michigan.

The executive order and the associated alert to financial institutions have been met with both support and criticism, underscoring the complexity and sensitivity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its impact on U.S. foreign policy.

The sanctions and executive order are a significant development in addressing the ongoing violence in the West Bank, but they also raise questions about the broader implications and potential repercussions in the Israel-Hamas conflict and the pursuit of a peaceful resolution in the region.