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The US and EU are imposing sanctions to groups in Israel

On Friday, the EU and USA announced the biggest sanctions on Israeli groups in the last decades, at the same time that the US Congress was approving an extra 26 billion dollar support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza, which will be distributed as following:

•$5.2bn go to replenishing and expanding Israel’s missile and rocket defence system.

•$3.5bn for buying advanced weapons systems and $1bn to enhance weapons production.

•$4.4bn for other supplies and services to Israel.

•$9.2bn for humanitarian purposes, including in the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank. The sanctions can be seen in the context of a growing anger in the western world about how Israel is conducting its response in Gaza following the attacks of Hamas on October 7.

As for the sanctions, the EU targeted Lehava, a far-right group that campaigns against relationships between Jews and non-Jews, and NGOs linked to Jewish settler violence in the West Bank. The EU also sanctioned the extremist Hilltop Youth, which was described as “a radical group consisting of members known for violent acts against Palestinians and their villages in the West Bank”.

On Friday, the US sanctioned specifically Bemtzi Gopstein, the leader of Levaha, who has acted as an adviser to the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben Gvir. Gopstein has been convicted by Israeli courts because of inflammatory speeches; in 2014, he said about the 20% Arabs living in Israel: "The enemies within us are a cancer, and if we don’t get rid of this cancer, we won’t be able to continue existing here as Jews,” he said. “The Temple Mount has the largest cancer growth of them all… as long as the Israeli government fails to remove that growth from the Temple Mount, Israel will never be fully redeemed".

And the US State Department confirmed on Saturday that they are preparing to impose sanctions on the Israel's Defense Force Netzah Yehuda battalion, which has been accused of serious human rights violations against Palestinians. The Netzah Yehuda battalion was created in 1999 and is largely composed of ultra-orthodox Jews, who are exempted from forced conscription. One high-profile case involves Omar As'ad, a 78-year-old Palestinian with US citizenship who was killed in 2022. He was imprisoned, handcuffed and blindfolded and then left to die by soldiers from the battalion in temperatures close to freezing.

The US sanctions, which would be imposed under the 1997 Leahy law, would prohibit the transfer of US military aid to the unit and prevent soldiers and officers participating in training either with the US military or in programmes that receive US funding. The Leahy law has been already applied to over 100 security forces all over the world, but almost none belong to a country that is a close ally of the US.

The announcement of the planned sanctions has caused anger among Israeli politicians:

"The IDF must not be sanctioned!" wrote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself on X. "I have been working in recent weeks against sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my talks with the US administration. At a time when our soldiers are fighting terrorist monsters, the intention to impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF is the height of absurdity and a moral low point."

War Minister Benny Gantz also reacted by stating:

"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 common enemies in wartime."

Both Netanyahu and Gantz have promised to "take steps to ensure that this decision does not go through", which clearly shows that the unconditional support of the US to Israel might end if Biden wins the election in November.


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