President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday with the aim of addressing the actions of Israeli settlers who have been engaging in violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The order includes sanctions on four individuals involved in such violence, leading to the death or displacement of numerous Palestinians. The Biden administration emphasized that this move is a response to settler actions that escalated, particularly after the October 7 Hamas attack.
The executive order designates individuals who initiated and led riots, assaulted civilians, and caused damage to property, resulting in fatalities. These individuals will face frozen and blocked U.S. financial assets, and foreign nationals are prohibited from making payments or providing services to them.
The order signals a shift in the U.S. approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, as President Biden faces increasing pressure, even from within his party, to adopt a more balanced stance.
The move follows a secretive hospital stay by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that was kept from top U.S. officials, leading to calls for a more robust approach to Israel.
Critics argue that Israel’s military campaign against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is disproportionate, prompting Biden to address the concerns of Arab-Americans in Michigan, a key battleground state.
Far-right Israeli settlers have long engaged in attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, often driven by a desire to seize land. Attacks intensified following the Hamas attack on October 7, resulting in the evacuation of entire Palestinian villages.
The Biden administration’s decision to impose sanctions reflects a desire to address settler violence and create clear boundaries.
While significant, the executive order does not represent the most stringent measures taken by a U.S. president against Israel. Past administrations have designated extremist Jewish groups as foreign terrorist organizations and linked financial assistance to settlement freezes.
The groundwork for the current executive order was laid out in November, with President Biden directing officials to explore options for addressing violent Israeli settlers. In December, U.S. visa restrictions were imposed on extremist Israeli settlers.
The State and Treasury Departments are expected to release details on the sanctions, specifying how financial institutions should handle the matter. The Biden administration has demonstrated an increased focus on supporting Palestinians, pushing for more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.
The recent shift in approach indicates a greater consideration of Palestinian concerns, especially in the aftermath of the Hamas attack and ongoing tensions in the region.