US adds 3 Israeli settlers and, in a first, 2 West Bank outposts to sanctioned extremists list
An Israeli settlement on a hill overlooking Ramallah in the West Bank Jerusalem.
(Photo: Rex Wholster/Shutterstock)

By Luke Tress, Ron Kampeas
March 14, 2024

(JTA) — The Biden administration has expanded its list of West Bank settlers who face U.S. sanctions over their alleged violence against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists.

The new additions include, for the first time, two settlement outposts in addition to settlers who have been accused of instigating violence and pushing Palestinians out of their homes and fields. Most of the new additions have already been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and France since the three countries began ramping up pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to rein in extremists.

The additions come as tensions between President Joe Biden and Netanyahu over Israel’s war in Gaza are reaching a new high, and at the same time as the most senior Democrat in the Senate formally called for new elections in Israel. They also come amid ongoing violence in Israel and the West Bank.

The United Nations coordinator for the peace process, Tor Wennesland, said late last month that 27 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank since the start of the year, while three Israelis killed in terror attacks in the territory. Casualties have mounted since, including the killing by Israeli forces of two alleged terrorists in the Jenin refugee camp this week and the stabbing of multiple Israelis at a checkpoint. Soldiers also killed a 12-year-old boy this week in east Jerusalem.

The newly sanctioned individuals and outposts are:

White House spokesperson John Kirby said in a Thursday briefing that the outposts and their founders had been sanctioned because of “repeated violence.”

Unlike some more established settlements that have been seen as likely to be annexed to Israel if a peace deal were ever to emerge, the outposts under sanctions are considered illegal under Israeli law as well, even as Israelis on the far right — including members of the Netanyahu government — support the outposts and call for their expansion.

The Biden administration first levied visa restrictions on settlers found to be involved in attacks in December. It followed with a set of sanctions against four individuals in February. The administration says the penalties, which bar the settlers from transactions that involve the U.S. financial system and make it nearly impossible for them to carry out business with U.S. dollars, are appropriate at a time when it has levied sanctions against officials of Hamas, the terror group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7. The sanctions also block the settlers from entering the United States.

“Extremist settler violence against Palestinian and Israeli civilians and forced displacement of farmers and villages is a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of West Bank, Israel, and the broader region,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.

“The United States is committed to enduring peace and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike and will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for those engaging in actions that threaten the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank,” Miller said.

Netanyahu’s far-right finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in what was originally an unauthorized settlement in the West Bank, rejected the criticism and the new sanctions.

“These decisions are a capitulation by the Biden administration to the BDS campaign which is designed to tarnish the entire State of Israel and bring about the elimination of the settlement movement and the establishment of a Palestinian terror state,” Smotrich said in a statement. “The government of Israel stands by the side of the settlements, and these steps are totally unacceptable and we will fight to have them abolished.”

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