President Joe Biden issued an executive order Thursday that purports to target so-called “extremist settler violence” in the West Bank, but whose terms are so broad that they could be used to impose sanctions on Israeli elected leaders and political parties.
The order was issued as President Biden made a trip to Michigan, where Arab- and Muslim-American voters have threatened not to support him in the key swing state in the 2020 presidential election because of his perceived support for Israel against Hamas.
The order claims that there are “high levels” of violence directed by Jewish Israeli settlers against Palestinian residents of West Bank, known to Israelis as Judea and Samaria. In fact, such violence has not risen, and is dwarfed by violence by Palestinians.
According to Israel police, in 2023 to date, Palestinians have carried out 5,600 terror attacks in Judea and Samaria. That’s 16 a day, every day.
In 2023 there have been 60 altercations between Palestinians and Israeli residents of Judea and Samaria, total.
— Caroline Glick (@CarolineGlick) December 18, 2023
As analyst David Weinberg recently noted at the Jewish News Syndicate:
There is no escalating or unprecedented wave of settler violence in Judea and Samaria under cover of the war in Gaza. The frenzied focus on “settler terrorism” by the highest officials in Washington is based on fake news.
Overall, the level of friction/violence in 2023 is about the same as that of 2022, totaling about 1,000 instances of violence of all types over the course of the full year.
In 2022, there were more than 5,000 Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli Jews, including car-rammings, shootings, stabbings and bombings of innocent men, women and children. These attacks included over 500 firebombings, leading to the injury of more than 150 Israelis. There was a 210% rise in rock-throwing incidents in 2021 over 2020 and a 156% rise in bomb-throwing incidents in 2021 over 2020.
Notably, the executive order does not provide any factual basis or evidentiary record substantiating its claims.
The claims about “extremist settler violence” are used as a way of balancing criticism of Palestinian terrorism, and appeasing a restive anti-Israel constituency in the Democratic Party.
The overwhelming majority of “settlers” — that is, Israeli citizens who live in communities across the 1949 armistice line — are peaceful. But the language of the executive order is so sweeping that it could theoretically be applied to non-violent people.
For example, the executive order allows sanctions to be imposed on anyone found to “have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person blocked pursuant to this order,” meaning it could apply to a lawyer, or anyone who argues on behalf of an accused “settler.” Moreover the executive order allows the president to sanction any “entity” that has members who are sanctioned, which could mean that the U.S. could sanction parties or leaders in the Israeli government. The White House’s national security spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters on Air Force One that the U.S. was not sanctioning any Israeli leaders “at this time,” but left open the possibility.
Already, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose executive director celebrated the October 7 terror attack,has demanded in a press release that the Biden administration begin sanctioning right-wing members of the Israeli government.
As Breitbart news has noted:
In 2007-8, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That case, in turn, led the FBI to discontinue its work with the organization. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that the government “produced ample evidence to establish” the ties of CAIR with Hamas, the Palestinian terror organization. The United Arab Emirates labeled CAIR a terrorist organization in 2014 (a decision that the Obama administration opposed).
The timing of the executive order comes as the U.S. is pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state at the end of the war, despite the fact that doing so would reward Hamas for the terrorism of October 7; and as the U.S. reportedly presses Israel to accept a hostage deal that would end the war short of achieving Israel’s objective of destroying Hamas’s military capabilities and ending its governing role in Gaza.
Update: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement in response:
The overwhelming majority of residents in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are currently fighting – as conscripts and reservists – to defend Israel.
Israel acts against all Israelis who break the law, everywhere; therefore, exceptional measures are unnecessary.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the 2021 e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now updated with a new foreword. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.