WASHINGTON D.C. – In a surprising move, President Joe Biden has issued an executive order specifically targeting violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank, a move seen as an effort to stabilize the region, which has experienced increased violence since Hamas’ attack on Israel three months ago.
This executive order, reflecting a direct approach by the U.S. administration, names four individuals responsible for perpetrating violence and intimidation in the area.
President Biden, in his address at the National Prayer Breakfast, acknowledged the pain and suffering experienced by both Israelis and Palestinians. He reiterated his commitment to working towards peace and security for both peoples, emphasizing the U.S.’s role in actively pursuing a resolution to the ongoing conflict.
“The situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability,” Biden said in the order.
The recent surge in violence in the West Bank, following the Hamas attack, has intensified fears and led to significant casualties. President Biden has stressed that the issue of settler violence is frequently raised in diplomatic dialogues with Israeli leaders, underlining its importance in U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
The State Department has identified David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil, Shalom Zicherman, and Yinon Levi as the key figures behind various acts of violence in the West Bank. These acts include initiating riots, setting fires to buildings and vehicles, and assaulting civilians. The executive order will impose financial sanctions on these individuals and bar them from entering the United States.
This move comes amidst heightened tensions following a full-scale war in Gaza, triggered by the Hamas attack. While the order refrains from targeting U.S. citizens, a notable portion of the settler community, it marks a continuation of the Biden administration’s policy from last year, which imposed travel bans on Israeli settlers known for attacking Palestinians.
The White House has informed the Israeli government of the impending sanctions, underscoring the gravity of the situation. A senior administration official emphasized that the evidence gathered against these individuals is robust, capable of withstanding judicial scrutiny, and includes information from public reporting.
Reacting to the order, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement that “the vast majority of residents of Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are fighting right now in active and reserve duty to protect Israel.”
“Israel acts against all violators of the law in all places,” the PMO statement continued, “and therefore there is no place for drastic steps on this matter.”
The order represents one of the most significant critiques of Israel by the Biden administration — which has been highly supportive of Israel — since the onset of the Gaza war, signaling a potential shift in U.S. policy towards a more balanced approach in the region. This development might also be interpreted as an effort to address the concerns of Muslim and Arab-American voters who have been critical of the administration’s stance during the Gaza conflict and the ongoing hearing in the UN International Court of Justice.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in December, had announced a policy to prevent extremist Israeli settlers responsible for violence from entering the U.S. This policy applies to both Israelis and Palestinians involved in attacks in the West Bank, illustrating an inclusive approach to tackling the issue.
Violence by Israeli settlers has been a longstanding issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with incidents like the brutal attack in Huwara last February highlighting the severity of the situation.
The Biden administration’s recent actions indicate a commitment to address settler violence, which poses a threat to the peace, security, and stability of the region and obstructs the vision of an independent Palestinian state.
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