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US sanctions ‘the height of absurdity’ – Israeli leaders slam reported US plans targeting IDF unit

Netanyahu and Gantz vow to change unprecedented US decision

Israeli soldiers from Netzah Yehuda Battalion and family members attend a swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City, on May 17, 2023. (Photo: Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90)

Israel Defense Forces officials and several Israeli leaders on Sunday slammed reports that the U.S. is about to sanction an IDF unit for “human rights violations” in the coming days.

The Axios news outlet reported that an announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken regarding sanctions against the IDF's ‘Netzah Yehuda’ battalion is expected in the coming days. The unit is primarily composed of ultra-Orthodox Jews and has often been accused of abusing Palestinian citizens.

"The IDF Netzah Yehuda Battalion soldiers are currently participating in the war effort in the Gaza Strip. The battalion is professionally and bravely conducting operations in accordance with the IDF Code of Ethics and with full commitment to international law," the Israeli military stated in an official response.

"In recent years, the battalion's soldiers have been at the heart of operational duties working around the clock in order to protect Israeli civilians, while being a leading battalion with regards to recruitment of ultra-Orthodox citizens to the IDF," the statement continued.

The statement noted that the IDF was not aware of reports about U.S. sanctions but reaffirmed its commitment to investigating "exceptional incidents" in accordance with the law.

"The reports regarding sanctions against the Netzah Yehuda Battalion are not currently known to the IDF. Should such a decision be made on the matter, its consequences will be reviewed. The IDF remains committed to continue to examine exceptional incidents professionally and according to law."

“At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on an IDF unit is the height of absurdity and a moral low,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argued.

“The government headed by me will act by all means against these moves,” Netanyahu wrote, adding that he has been working to counter U.S. sanctions against Israeli citizens for the past several weeks.

Notably, ministers from the National Unity party, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, quickly joined their right-wing colleagues in the unity government to publicly condemn the expected move.

“I have great appreciation for our American friends, but the decision to impose sanctions on an IDF unit and its soldiers sets a dangerous precedent and conveys the wrong message to our shared enemies during wartime,” Gantz wrote on 𝕏.

“I intend on acting to have this decision changed,” Gantz wrote, adding that the Netzah Yehuda battalion is an “inseparable part” of the IDF and that “it is subject to military law and responsible for operating in full compliance with International law.”

“The State of Israel has a strong, independent judicial system that evaluates meticulously any claim of a violation or deviation from IDF orders and code of conduct, and will continue to do so,” he added.

“The idea of imposing sanctions on a combat battalion in the IDF is fundamentally wrong,” wrote the former IDF chief Eisenkot.

“We will work together to prevent the decision because, if there are complaints, they should be addressed to the political and military leadership and not to the commanders at the tactical level.”

“I saw up close the battalion's contribution to the fight against terrorism and the price that fighters paid with their lives," Eisenkot added.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren warned against a “slippery slope” of U.S. sanctions during an interview with Army Radio.

“It starts with this battalion and then it can be Golani and the Paratroopers - there is a slippery slope,” Oren said.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich argued that sanctioning an IDF battalion “while Israel is fighting for its existence is absolute madness.”

”We warned that the Biden administration’s sanctions against the settlers will continue for the IDF and the entire State of Israel,” he added.

This latest round of sanctions follows a series of unprecedented sanctions by the U.S. against Israeli individuals.

Last Friday, the European Union and the U.S. sanctioned several Israeli settlement activists and connected entities, in addition to the well-known anti-Christian activist Benzi Gopstein and his organization, Lehava.

Smotrich added that the moves were intended to force Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir wrote: “Sanctions on our soldiers is a red line! [Defense] Minister Gallant must immediately back Netzah Yehuda. If not, we will receive them in the Border Police as great heroes.”

Communications Minister and Likud party member Shlomo Karhi commented on the sanctions.

“This is absurd and unacceptable. As a Netzah Yehuda graduate, I salute all IDF soldiers, and Netzah Yehuda soldiers in particular, who sacrifice their lives for the people of Israel. We must not fall into the hypocritical honey trap of the BDS and its metastases.”

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

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