The President of the United States, Joe Biden, signed an executive order this Thursday that imposes sanctions on four Israeli settlers for their repeated violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank. It is the most significant action the United States has taken since the war in Gaza escalated following the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7. It will prohibit settlers from traveling to the United States and will block their access to all American property and assets, in addition to prohibiting them from sending or receiving money from the North American country.
The sanctions seek to punish individuals “who have perpetrated violence” and “who have engaged in repeated acts of intimidation and destruction of property, leading to the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.” The four sanctioned are David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil, Shalom Zicherman and Yinon Levi. All of them were involved in violent actions, as described in the executive order. Levi, for example, led a group of settlers who “created an atmosphere of fear in the West Bank” with their “frequent” attacks on Palestinian and Bedouin communities, threatening them to abandon their homes, burning their land and destroying property.
The US already imposed visa access restrictions on Israeli settlers in December
This executive action, which also responds to the disenchantment of many Democratic voters – especially young and Arab ones – with the unwavering support for Israel in the conflict, increases the pressure on the settlers, who have already been restricted from having US visas. in December. The State Department then issued a directive against dozens of “radical” Israelis, accused of increasing their violence against Palestinians and the forcible displacement of their communities in the occupied territories.
The White House assures that Biden communicated the measure to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and warns that there will be more settlers sanctioned in the coming weeks. Israel’s government has criticized this action, arguing that the “vast majority” of West Bank settlers are “law-abiding citizens” and that the Hebrew state “acts against violators everywhere, so there is no need to exceptional measures in this matter.”
The executive order comes hours before a campaign event for the president in Michigan, a key state (swing state) for the November elections and the one with the highest percentage of Arab population (2.11%), around 211,500. citizens. In the 2020 elections, the Democrat won in Michigan by only 150,000 votes, out of a total of 5.5 million who participated.
Before leaving for the Midwestern state, Biden participated in the National Prayer Breakfast, a tradition that has been celebrated in Washington on the first Thursday in February since 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower attended. After the prayer, she referred to the Arab-Israeli conflict: “We not only pray for peace, but we actively work for the peace, security and dignity of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.”
Since October 7, 370 Palestinians have been murdered in the West Bank
The measure looks with concern at the armed violence that Palestinians have been suffering for decades in territories occupied by extremist settlers in the West Bank and that has increased considerably since the Hamas attacks on October 7 in Israeli territory. Since that date, 370 Palestinians have been murdered in the West Bank, 94 of them children, according to data from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. It is the largest spiral of violence against these communities in the West Bank since the Second Intifada (2000-2005).
The Biden Administration fears that the war in Gaza – which has taken the lives of 26,000 Palestinians and generated a humanitarian catastrophe, in response to the 1,200 Israelis murdered by Hamas in one day – will extend to the West Bank and open a new battle front. for its largest international ally: Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid since World War II.
But it also has an electoral logic. To date, Biden has shown firm support for Israel, despite his differences with Netanyahu’s ultraconservative regime and pressure within his party to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. This alignment has earned him massive demonstrations across the country and condemnation from his base of Arab voters, whose support has plummeted from 59% to 17% since 2020, according to a recent survey by the Arab American Institute.
These voters could be decisive in the next presidential elections, in which Biden will likely face Donald Trump again, who has the Republican nomination on track after his victories in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primaries. In key states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, the presence of Arab citizens numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
The executive order allows the Democrat to condemn settler violence, while maintaining support for Israel, which remains the majority among Americans. 52% have a favorable view of Israel, while 28% have a negative view, according to a survey published last week by Harvard University. But support plummets among young people: 49% of citizens between 18 and 29 years old believe that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians, according to another survey by The Economist and YouGov.