Updated April 21st, 2024 at 21:53 IST

'Height of Absurdity': Netanyahu Amid Reports that US Could Sanction an IDF Unit

Reports indicate that the US is going to announce sanctions against the IDF's Netzah Yehuda for alleged human rights violations in the occupied West Bank area.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. | Image:AP
Advertisement

Jerusalem: Reacting to reports that the US is set to level sanctions against a unit of the Israeli Defence Forces over alleged human rights violations in the occupied West Bank area, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphatically said on X that “Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defence Forces!” 

“At a time when our soldiers are fighting the monsters of terror, the intention to impose a sanction on a unit in the IDF is the height of absurdity and a moral low,” he added. He was not alone in expressing such views. 

Advertisement

Defence Minister Benny Gantz said, “We have great respect for our American friends, but imposing sanctions on the unit is a dangerous precedent and sends the wrong message to our shared enemies at a time of war."

Still others were more forceful and even conspirational in their pushback against the reported sanctions. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich labelled the imposition of sanctions as “utter madness” and claimed that “This is part of a planned move to force the State of Israel to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state and to forsake Israel’s security.” 

Advertisement

The what and why of the reported sanctions

According to a report by Axios, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to announce sanctions against the IDF's Netzah Yehuda battalion for alleged human rights violations committed by the group in the occupied West Bank area. Separately, a report by Israeli news publication Haaretz quoted anonymous sources in the Biden administration as saying that the US is also considering similar action against other police and military units in Israel for the very same reasons though the Axios report said that Washington may not take such actions if these other units remedy their behaviour.

Advertisement

The Netzah Yehuda is a battalion composed of ultra-orthodox Jews that has come to the attention of the US for its involvement in several violent clashes with Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank territory in 2022. Significantly, the battalion was involved in the death of an 80-year-old American Palestinian man named Omar Assad. 

Back in early 2022, Assad was stopped by the members of the battalion as he was making his way back home in West Bank. After he allegedly refused to be checked by the soldiers, the 80-year-old man was detained, bound and gagged for his “aggressive resistance”. Hours later, Assad, who was left lying on the ground in such a manner, was found to have died as a result of a heart attack. 

Advertisement

Subsequently, while the US State Department called for an investigation into the matter, the soldiers involved in the matter were not prosecuted but rather targeted with disciplinary action for their “misconduct”. Later, in January 2023, the battalion was redeployed to the Golan Heights, with Hareetz reporting that this action was taken due to the many instances where the group allegedly used violence against Palestinians. The group is presently deployed on the Gaza Strip front. 

As for what sort of sanctions will reportedly be brought against the group, reports state that the US will likely make use of Leahy Law, so named for Senator Patrick Leahy who authored the 1997 law. According to a definition provided by the US State Department, the Leahy Law “refers to two statutory provisions prohibiting the U.S. Government from using funds for assistance to units of foreign security forces where there is credible information implicating that unit in the commission of gross violations of human rights.”

Advertisement

Specifically, imposition of sanctions under this law, which has been used numerous times across the world since its inception, would not only block members of the Netzah Yehuda battalion from receiving any kind of US aid but would also prohibit them from taking part in any training programmes funded and organised by the US Department of Defence. 

If indeed the US does decide to sanction the battalion under the Leahy Law, this would be the first time Washington has imposed sanctions against an Israeli military unit. 

Advertisement

It may be noted, however, that the imposition of these sanctions may be averted if “the Secretary of State determines and reports to Congress that the government of the country is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.” 

 

Advertisement

 

Advertisement

Published April 21st, 2024 at 21:11 IST