Biden looks to sanction elite IDF, sparking alarm throughout Israel

 April 21, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center

JERUSALEM – The Biden administration's signaled intention to impose sanctions on an elite Israel Defense Forces unit is causing alarm throughout Israel, especially in light of late-breaking news reports indicating that still other units – in addition to the Netzah Yehuda Battalion – might also be in Washington's crosshairs.

According to reports from the Times of Israel, the Israeli military has downplayed U.S. political moves, claiming it was "unaware" of Washington's plans to sanction the unit – which has been involved in a number of controversial and violent incidents in the West Bank.

Comprised mostly of ultra-Orthodox and other religions male soldiers, members of the Netzah Yehuda ("Judea Forever") Battalion do not interact with female troops and are provided with additional time for Torah study and prayer. The battalion has been deployed to some of the hottest theaters of war, including on the northern border, carrying out missions in the West Bank, as well as pinpoint strikes in Gaza. And the unit has had its share of controversies, with convictions meted out after evidence emerged of alleged torture and/or abuse of Palestinian prisoners and other detainees.

Despite the IDF's public downplaying of the Biden administration's planned move, there was widespread condemnation from across Israel's political spectrum at the prospect, from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Opposition Leader (although current member of Israel's War Cabinet and former IDF Chief-of-Staff) Benny Gantz to former Prime Minister Yair Lapid. Both of the latter two leaders are implacable political opponents of Netanyahu, and while Lapid called the move a "mistake," he couldn't resist taking aim at Netanyahu and his government, accusing them of being the source of the problem.

Meanwhile, Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has been busy today, speaking with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew, and due to speak with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"I expect the American administration to go back on its intention to impose sanctions on the Netzah Yehuda Battalion," Gallant said in remarks published by the Defense Ministry, warning that the planned move would set a "dangerous" precedent.

Israeli radio, however, paints a much bleaker picture of the situation – with commentators on the Galgalatz (Army Radio) station suggesting that the Biden administration seemed set to carry out the sanctions and was unlikely to listen to Israeli protestations.

It also posited that one of the consequences of sanctioning the Netzah Yehuda Battalion might be to strengthen the International Criminal Court's position against Israel, and provide support for the reports of arrest warrants being prepared for Netanyahu as well as other senior political leaders and IDF top brass. By sanctioning the battalion, the United States is signaling that it does not fully accept that the IDF is capable of conducting swift, fair and impartial investigations into allegations of severe misconduct among its soldiers.

In an arena where perception is often as important as hard facts, the impression that the U.S. administration is not only abandoning Israel, but is actively punishing it, could encourage severe jeopardy for the Jewish state.

As WND recently reported, "Israel is becoming increasingly concerned that the International Criminal Court in The Hague is preparing international arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as other senior political figures and high-ranking Israel Defense Forces officials."

Gallant addressed these specific concerns when he remarked that the Netzah Yehuda Battalion operates "in accordance with IDF values ​​and according to international law, and any event that deviates from the procedures is handled accordingly."

In addition to Gallant, Gantz was also due to speak to Blinken to push back against the prospect of sanctions, similarly warning that the proposed step was overly severe and could lead to dangerous consequences for the Jewish state.

The original report first surfaced on Axios, which cited unnamed American sources. The results of any sanctions imposition are serious and include the ban on U.S. weaponry being transferred to the unit, and the prevention of its soldiers from training with U.S. forces or taking part in any activities with U.S. funding, under the Leahy Law, named after former Sen. Patrick Leahy, which bars U.S. aid for any foreign military units that have committed human rights abuses.

For his part, Netanyahu took to X and addressed Israeli media in Hebrew, saying that he would fight the threat to impose sanctions on any IDF soldiers "with all my might."

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