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Biden signs executive order to combat Jewish settler violence

Netanyahu responds 'there is no place for drastic steps on this matter'

Israeli settler attacks Palestinian farmers in the West Bank (Photo: WAFA/File photo)

U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Thursday that will allow Washington to use new legal and financial tools against radical Jewish settlers engaged in violence in Judea and Samaria, internationally known as the West Bank.

The unprecedented executive order constitutes the harshest legal action ever taken by any Washington administration against Israeli Jews living in the disputed territory. It includes sanctions against four specific Israeli extremists due to their participation in acts of violence against the local Palestinian population.

The American president argued that the level of settler violence had reached “intolerable levels” and threatened the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

“The situation in the West Bank – in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction – has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability,” Biden stated.

On Thursday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the goal of the executive order is to financially penalize individuals who are engaged in violence against civilians in the West Bank.

“This executive order will allow the United States to issue financial sanctions against those directing or participating in certain actions, including acts or threats of violence against civilians, intimidating civilians to cause them to leave their homes, destroying or seizing property or engaging in terrorist activity in the West Bank,” Sullivan stated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded to the U.S. executive order by emphasizing that “the vast majority of residents of Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are fighting right now in active and reserve duty to protect Israel.”

There are about half a million Israeli Jews currently living in communities beyond the Green Line in Judea and Samaria.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem further stated that “Israel acts against all violators of the law in all places,” and because of that, "there is no place for drastic steps on this matter.”

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a West Bank resident himself, blasted the Biden administration for legitimizing attacks against Jewish settlers.

“The ‘settler violence’ campaign is an antisemitic lie that enemies of Israel disseminate with the goal of smearing the pioneering settlers and settlement enterprise and to harm them and thus smear the entire State of Israel,” Smotrich argued.

“This is an immoral BDS campaign that turns victims into attackers and sanctions the spilling of settler blood. It’s too bad the Biden administration is cooperating with these actions,” the Israeli finance minister added.

In March 2023, the Biden administration condemned Smotrich after he had called for the “erasure” of Huwara, an Arab West Bank town from which terrorists had attacked Israelis.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ned Price urged Netanyahu to distance himself from Smotrich’s controversial statement.

“Just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence. We call on Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior officials to publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments,” Price said.

Israeli Ambassador to Washington Michael Herzog later stressed that the Jewish state distinguishes between armed terrorists and civilians.

"Notwithstanding the fact that Israel has been subjected to a recent wave of horrific terror attacks against its civilians, it is absolutely not Israeli policy and it’s against our values to respond by wiping out civilian villages," Herzog clarified.

Biden’s executive order on Thursday may viewed within the context of the upcoming U.S. election in November, as the U.S. president has been facing growing criticism from progressive Democrats and Arab Americans for its support of Israel's war against the terror organization Hamas.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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