U.S. Considers Sanctions Against Israeli Military Unit Amid Scrutiny

The U.S. is considering sanctioning an Israeli military unit over alleged human rights abuses, straining relations between the close allies. This unprecedented move highlights tensions between the Biden admin's disapproval of Israel's actions and its continued support.

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U.S. Considers Sanctions Against Israeli Military Unit Amid Scrutiny

U.S. Considers Sanctions Against Israeli Military Unit Amid Scrutiny

The United States is considering imposing sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) over alleged human rights abuses against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. If implemented, this would be the first instance of the U.S. sanctioning an Israeli military unit, straining relations between the two close allies.

The potential sanctions stem from a U.S. State Department review launched over a year ago to investigate several Israeli military units for possible violations of the Leahy Law, which prohibits providing military assistance to foreign security forces that commit gross human rights violations. The Netzah Yehuda battalion, an ultra-Orthodox infantry unit, has faced intense scrutiny for its actions in the West Bank, including the death of 78-year-old Palestinian-American Omar Assad in January 2022 after being detained at a checkpoint.

Israeli leaders have strongly condemned the prospect of U.S. sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it the "height of absurdity" and a "moral low," vowing to fight the decision with all his strength. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that sanctioning the battalion would set a dangerous precedent and urged the U.S. to reconsider, stating that "harm to any one battalion is harm to the entire military establishment."

Why this matters: The unprecedented move by the U.S. to sanction an Israeli military unit highlights the growing tension between the Biden administration's disapproval of Israel's actions in the West Bank and its continued robust support for Israel's security. The decision could have far-reaching implications for U.S.-Israel relations and Israel's international legitimacy.

Despite the potential sanctions, the U.S. continues to provide significant financial and military support to Israel, as evidenced by a recent $14 billion aid package for the ongoing war in Gaza. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has made determinations about cutting funding to certain Israeli security units over human rights abuse allegations but did not explicitly name the Netzah Yehuda battalion. The IDF has defended the unit, stating that its soldiers are currently participating in the Gaza war effort and are acting in accordance with the IDF Code of Ethics and international law.

Key Takeaways

  • U.S. considers sanctioning Israel's Netzah Yehuda battalion over alleged human rights abuses.
  • Sanctions would be first against an Israeli military unit, straining U.S.-Israel relations.
  • Sanctions stem from U.S. review of Israeli units for Leahy Law violations on human rights.
  • Israeli leaders strongly condemn potential sanctions, calling it "absurd" and "dangerous precedent".
  • U.S. continues to provide significant financial and military aid to Israel despite human rights concerns.