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US decides against sanctioning Israeli battalion despite ‘gross human rights violations’

April 26, 2024 at 4:17 pm

Israeli soldiers of the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox battalion ‘Netzah Yehuda’ take part in their annual unit training in the Israeli annexed Golan Heights, near the Syrian border on 19 May, 2014 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

The US has reversed its decision to impose sanctions on the extremist Israel Defence Forces’ Netzah Yehuda battalion, despite determining that soldiers in the brigade had committed “gross human rights violations” against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, ABC News reported. This marks the second time the administration of President Joe Biden has failed to push ahead with sanctioning Israelis for gross human rights violations since 7 October.

The Netzah Yehuda battalion, created for religious fundamentalists in Israel, has attracted many religious extremists and Zionist settler groups since its founding in 1999. The decision not to sanction the battalion was outlined in an undated letter from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to House Speaker Mike Johnson, which ABC News obtained.

Blinken stated that the US determination “will not delay the delivery of any US assistance and Israel will be able to receive the full amount appropriated by Congress.” He also mentioned that the Israeli government had presented new information regarding the status of the unit and that the US would engage in identifying a path to effective remediation for the unit.

The decision to avoid sanctioning the Haredi battalion may have been influenced by appeals from Israeli leaders across the political spectrum. Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would fight any sanctions imposed on any Israeli military unit. “If somebody thinks they can impose sanctions on any IDF unit, I’ll fight that with all my might,” Netanyahu said in a statement.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration failed to impose sanctions on extremist settlers after announcing in March that it would seek to punish individuals linked to settler violence.  A month later the White House informed the Israeli Finance Ministry that banks in Israel do not need to freeze the accounts of settlers who have been placed under sanctions by Washington.

Israeli banks had frozen the accounts of the settlers after the US announced the sanctions. However, in a letter sent to the Finance Ministry, Washington said the measures were “not intended to compel Israeli banks to close the accounts of targeted individuals.”

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