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Blinken Affirms No ‘Double Standard’ for Israel Ahead of Anticipated Sanctions on Military Unit

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Credits: Arab News)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Monday that the State Department’s investigation into alleged Israeli human rights abuses and the potential role of American weapons in these violations is being conducted to the same standard as for any other country. Blinken made this statement during the release of the 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

When asked about the investigation, Blinken said, “Do we have a double standard? The answer is no.” He also mentioned that an announcement is expected soon regarding State Department findings on whether to restrict assistance to the Netzah Yehuda military unit, which has been accused of human rights abuses.

The Netzah Yehuda unit, composed mostly of ultra-Orthodox Israelis, operates primarily in the West Bank and has been reported to have the highest conviction rate for abuses against Palestinian civilians. Under the Leahy Law, the US is required to cut off assistance to any foreign military or law enforcement units if there is credible evidence of human rights violations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Credits: CNN)

Blinken emphasized that the investigation is a deliberate process that seeks to gather all relevant information. He noted that Israel has demonstrated the capacity to investigate wrongdoing and punish those responsible.

However, the potential announcement of US sanctions has drawn criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Benny Gantz, who argue that sanctioning the Israeli military unit would harm Israel’s international legitimacy and has no justification given Israel’s strong and independent judicial system.

The Biden administration has taken a step by considering sanctions against Netzah Yehuda, particularly given its recent arms sales to Israel for its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The administration has criticized Israel’s military for the high death toll of Palestinian civilians, estimated to be over 20,000. In the West Bank, where violence has escalated between Israelis and Palestinians, the administration has taken the extraordinary step of sanctioning individual Israelis for carrying out violence against Palestinians.

Antony Blinken (Credits: CNN)

The State Department’s 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices condemns Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, which killed over 1,100 people and injured more than 5,400.

However, the report also raises concerns about Israel’s conduct of the war, noting that its military operation in Gaza has killed over 21,000 Palestinians and injured more than 56,000, displacing the majority of Palestinians in Gaza and resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis. The report highlights human rights issues, including credible reports of serious abuses by both Hamas and Israel.

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