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Biden Admin Advances Plan To Punish Israelis for Alleged Crimes Against Palestinians

State Department says it will impose sanctions on Israeli individuals and families but won't say how it will determine guilt

Antony Blinken (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
December 6, 2023

The Biden administration is advancing plans to punish Israelis it claims are involved in attacks against Palestinians, capitulating to far-left forces in the Democratic Party who have been leaning on the administration to take a harder line against Israel as the Jewish state conducts its war against Hamas.

The United States will impose sanctions, including U.S. travel restrictions, on a number of Israelis who the administration claims are involved in attacks on Palestinians. These individuals "and their immediate family members" will face punishment for "undermining the peace, security, or stability in the West Bank," where so-called Israeli settlers have clashed with Palestinians in recent weeks, according to a State Department spokesman who outlined details of the policy to the Washington Free Beacon.

The State Department would not publicly provide the names of those it plans to sanction, citing privacy concerns, or explain how U.S. officials determined guilt for these alleged crimes, which have yet to be prosecuted in an Israeli court. It is the first time in decades the United States is imposing punitive measures on Israelis living in the West Bank and signals cracks in the Biden administration's initial full-throated support for Israel as the country confronts Hamas terrorists.

The policy is already facing pushback from Republican foreign policy aides in Congress and from former Trump administration officials who see President Joe Biden as wrongly prioritizing sanctions on Israel. Biden's administration has not reimposed sanctions on Iran-backed terror groups like the Houthis—which have repeatedly fired missiles on U.S. forces in the region.

The State Department would not say how many Israelis it plans to sanction for alleged crimes, but recent reports put it at "several dozen."

"The Department is considering application of the policy to the appropriate targets," the State Department spokesman told the Free Beacon. "These restrictions are applied based on a case-by-case review of credible information pertaining to their" alleged involvement in attacks on West Bank-based Palestinians.

The policy will include Israelis believed to be "involved in violence against persons, especially U.S. persons, or property," according to the State Department. "It also includes those involved in unduly restricting civilians' access to essential services and basic necessities, such as food, water, electricity, or medical supplies."

It is unclear how the State Department will determine an individual's guilt and what information about these alleged crimes it will rely on. The State Department would not provide the Free Beacon with a list of Israelis it is sanctioning, or information on whether punitive measures will be applied before these Israelis face prosecution in an Israeli court.

"Individuals may be identified under this policy if they have been involved in or meaningfully contributed to undermining" security in the West Bank, the State Department spokesman said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, when announcing portions of the sanctions policy on Tuesday, accused "extremist settlers" of committing violence against Palestinians and said the Biden administration will "seek accountability for all acts of violence against civilians in the West Bank."

Blinken also said the United States is leaning on the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank to "curb Palestinian attacks against Israelis," but did not announce any punitive measures.

Biden has also publicly chastised "extremist settlers" in the West Bank, saying in October that he is "alarmed" about reports of violence.

Joel Rayburn, the former U.S. special envoy for Syria during the Trump administration, criticized the new policy on X, formerly Twitter, noting that the Biden administration has yet to issue any sanctions against Yemen's Houthi rebels as they continue to attack American military forces in the region.

"As long as he's turning his attention to sanctioning people in the Middle East, can [Blinken] also maybe return the Houthis to the foreign terrorist organization list, now that the Houthis are attacking cargo ships and U.S. Navy vessels in international waters?" Rayburn wrote.

One senior Republican congressional aide, who works on foreign policy matters, in comments to the Free Beacon described the administration's policy as backwards.

"The Biden administration is eager to give visas to sanctioned terrorists who want to mass murder Israelis, including top officials from the Iranian regime and the Palestine Liberation Organization," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on record. "Now they want to sanction Israelis and exclude them from the United States. It shows you what their priorities are and who they want to target."

The Biden administration has been under immense pressure from far-left voices in the Democratic Party who want it to more forcefully condemn Israel, which is waging war on Hamas following the terrorist group's Oct. 7 slaughter of more than 1,200 people.

State Department employees, for instance, recently signed an internal memo condemning the Biden administration's ongoing support for Israel's war effort. Democratic leaders in Congress, including members of the far-left "Squad," have demanded the United States begin conditioning U.S. military aid to the Jewish state as punishment for the death of civilians in the Gaza Strip.