Feb 7, 2024 - World

Bibi protests to Blinken, calls U.S. sanctions on violent settlers "inappropriate"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his official visit to Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. Photo: Handout/Kobi Gideon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his official visit to Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. Photo: Handout/Kobi Gideon/Anadolu via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday he told Secretary of State Tony Blinken that President Biden's executive order targeting Israeli settlers involved in violent attacks against Palestinians was "inappropriate" and "highly problematic."

Why it matters: Biden's order, which was issued last week, is the most significant move by any U.S. administration against settler violence in the occupied West Bank and signaled the White House's determination that Netanyahu and his government aren't seriously tackling the issue.

  • Israel claims it has taken robust action to address the problem and it led to a decrease in the number of violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.
  • There have been more than 500 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians since Oct. 7, according to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA). At least eight Palestinians have been killed in those attacks.

What they're saying: "Biden's order is a very serious matter. It is inappropriate and harms a big group of law-abiding settlers," Netanyahu said at a press conference.

  • "If the U.S. wanted to use it in an equal manner it would have imposed sanctions on hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. I told Blinken it is a highly problematic thing," Netanyahu said.

Driving the news: Under the executive order, Blinken announced sanctions against four Israeli settlers the U.S. says were involved in attacks in the West Bank.

  • Several days later, three Israeli banks announced they were suspending the settlers' bank accounts to comply with the new sanctions.
  • Israel's ultranationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on Israeli banks to not implement the new U.S. sanctions and asked the Ministry of Finance to look for ways to circumvent them.
  • Smotrich's actions could expose him, the Ministry of Finance and the Israeli banks to U.S. sanctions. Israel's central bank was quick to announce that it is backing the banks' decision to comply with the sanctions.

Between the lines: Netanyahu's initial response to Biden's executive order was very mild.

  • But in recent days the Israeli settler lobby has been pushing hard for Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians to react more strongly to Biden's decision.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect Blinken's meeting with Netanyahu took place in Jerusalem, not Tel Aviv.

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