How the US Sanctions on Israeli Settlers Divided Opinions in Israel and Beyond

The US decision to impose sanctions on four Israeli nationals for their involvement in violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank has sparked a heated debate in Israel and the international community. Some see it as a justified and overdue measure to protect human rights and uphold international law, while others see it as a biased and unfair accusation that demonizes and delegitimizes Israel.

The US sanctions, which were announced on February 1, 2024, by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, were part of an executive order that targeted individuals and entities that are responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses around the world. The order was based on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which authorizes the US to freeze the assets and ban the entry of those who violate human rights and engage in corruption.

The four Israelis who were sanctioned by the US are Yinon Levi, Yehuda Glick, Yehuda Landsberg, and Yehuda Wald. According to the US statement, they are all linked to extremist settler groups that have carried out violent attacks against Palestinian civilians, such as arson, vandalism, assault, and murder. The US also accused them of inciting hatred and violence, and of creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in the West Bank.

The US said that the sanctions were intended to hold the perpetrators accountable, to deter further violence, and to support the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people. The US also said that the sanctions were consistent with its longstanding policy of opposing the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, which it considers to be illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.

The Israeli Reaction to the Sanctions

The Israeli reaction to the US sanctions was largely negative and critical, as many officials, politicians, and commentators denounced the US move as a mistake and a betrayal. They argued that the sanctions were based on false and distorted allegations, that they violated the sovereignty and the democracy of Israel, and that they undermined the security and the legitimacy of Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing a tough re-election campaign, said that the sanctions were a “blood libel” and a “detached from reality” attack on Israel. He said that the US was rewarding the Palestinian terrorists who had killed more than 1,200 Israelis in the October 7 war, and that the US was ignoring the fact that Israel had a robust and independent legal system that dealt with any cases of violence or misconduct.

Netanyahu also said that the sanctions were a sign of the weakening of the US-Israeli alliance under the Biden administration, which he accused of being hostile and indifferent to Israel. He said that the US was endangering the stability and the security of the region, and that it was harming the prospects for peace and coexistence.

The Palestinian Response to the Sanctions

The Palestinian response to the US sanctions was mostly positive and appreciative, as many officials, activists, and residents praised the US move as a courageous and necessary step to protect human rights and to uphold international law. They said that the sanctions were a recognition of the suffering and the injustice that the Palestinians face under the Israeli occupation, and that they were a correction of a grave error by the Trump administration, which had supported and legitimized the Israeli settlements.

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign minister, Riyad al-Maliki, said that the sanctions were a “positive step” and a “return to the international consensus” on the illegality and the immorality of the Israeli settlements. He said that the sanctions were a message to the Israeli government and the settlers that they could not act with impunity and that they would face consequences for their actions.

Maliki also urged the US to take further actions to support the Palestinian cause and to pressure the Israeli government to end the occupation and to respect the rights and the aspirations of the Palestinian people. He said that the US should also reopen its consulate in East Jerusalem, which had served as the main channel of communication with the Palestinians, and which had been closed by the Trump administration in 2019.

The Implications of the Sanctions

The US sanctions on the Israeli settlers are unlikely to have any immediate or direct impact on the situation on the ground, as the Israeli government and the settlers are expected to continue their policies and practices in the West Bank, and as the Palestinians are expected to continue their resistance and their protests. However, the sanctions could have some long-term and indirect effects on the political and diplomatic dynamics in the region, and on the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The sanctions could signal a shift in the US approach to the conflict, which could be more critical and more balanced than the previous administration, which had sided with Israel on almost every issue. The sanctions could also indicate a willingness by the US to use its leverage and its influence to pressure and to persuade the Israeli government to change its course and to make concessions for peace.

The sanctions could also influence the public opinion and the discourse in Israel and in the international community, which could be more aware and more concerned about the human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories. The sanctions could also inspire and empower the civil society and the human rights organizations in Israel and abroad, which could be more vocal and more active in exposing and challenging the Israeli settlements and the settler violence.

The sanctions could also affect the prospects and the parameters of the peace process and the solution to the conflict, which could be more based on the international law and the UN resolutions, which call for the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The sanctions could also create more pressure and more incentives for the parties to resume the negotiations and to reach a just and lasting peace agreement.

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