Updated Mar 14, 2024 - World

U.S. announces new sanctions against occupied West Bank settler outposts

"Israeli right-wing activists and settlers protest in the West Bank outpost of Homesh in 2021. It's unclear which outposts would be affected by the expected second round of sanctions."

Israeli right-wing activists and settlers protest in the West Bank outpost of Homesh in 2021. Homesh outpost was not sanctioned. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/picture alliance via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced new sanctions Thursday against two illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank that were used as a base for attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, three U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: It is the first time U.S. sanctions are being imposed against entire outposts and not just against individuals.

  • The move comes as the Biden administration ratchets up pressure on the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a range of issues, including settler violence against Palestinians and the war in Gaza.
  • There were nearly 500 Israeli settler attacks against Palestinians between Oct. 7 and Jan. 31 of this year, according to the UN humanitarian office (OCHA).

Driving the news: The second round of sanctions by the Biden administration to counter settler violence are against Moshe's farm and Zvi's farm for being used as a base for attacks by settlers against Palestinian civilians.

  • The Department of Treasury also sanctioned three Israeli settlers: the two leaders of the outposts, Moshe Sharvit and Zvi Bar Yosef, as well as Neriya Ben Pazi, for their involvement in attacks.
  • A U.S. official said the sanctions against the two outposts are meant to send the message that the U.S. is targeting not only individuals but also entities that are involved in giving logistical and financial support to attacks against Palestinian civilians.
  • The sanctions freeze assets the three settlers and two outposts might have in the U.S., ban them from getting a visa to enter the U.S. and block them from using the U.S. financial system.

Flashback: On Feb. 1, President Biden signed an executive order allowing the U.S. to impose new sanctions on Israeli settlers — and potentially Israeli politicians and government officials — involved in violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.

  • The unprecedented executive order was the most significant step any U.S. administration had taken in response to the violence.
  • The first round of sanctions under the new executive order included four Israeli settlers who the U.S. said were directly involved in attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank and systematic acts that led to the forced displacement of Palestinian communities.
  • Since then the U.K., France and Canada announced similar sanctions.

Between the lines: The initial response of the Israeli government and the settler movement to Biden's executive order was very mild because they saw it as a largely symbolic move.

  • But within days 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.
  • Under pressure from the settler lobby, Netanyahu protested the move in a phone call with Biden in February, suggesting the prime minister was concerned the order could have unprecedented implications for the entire settlements enterprise in the West Bank.
  • Biden pushed back on Netanyahu's complaint and told the Israeli prime minister the U.S. will continue sanctioning violent extremist settlers, a senior U.S. official said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the names of the individuals and outposts sanctioned.

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