This story is not getting as much attention as it should, in our view. Yesterday, Joe Biden announced an executive order that will impose sanctions on Israelis accused of making violent attacks against Palestinians in the West Bank.
At the moment, the order will only apply to four people, though it's expected the list will be expanded shortly. Those four will be prohibited from traveling to the United States, conducting business with Americans, or accessing any resources they have in American banks. The four are David Chai Chasdai, whom the State Department says instigated a riot in the West Bank; Yinon Levi, accused of leading paramilitary attacks against Palestinians; Einan Tanjil, who has allegedly assaulted both Palestinians and Israeli activists; and Shalom Zicherman, who reportedly has attacked numerous left-wing Israeli anti-war activists.
This is a pretty big deal. Inasmuch as both Republican and Democratic presidents tend to handle Israel with kid gloves, this is a big change of course for a U.S. president. As one commentator described it: "The unprecedented executive order is the most significant step any U.S. administration has ever taken in response to violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank." Naturally, the Israeli government was not happy, and Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement that read, in part:
The absolute majority of the settlers in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are currently fighting regularly and in the reserves for the defense of Israel. Israel acts against all lawbreakers everywhere, so there is no room for exceptional measures in this regard.
Readers can decide for themselves how credible they find that characterization to be.
In any event, it is very clear that Biden is slowly changing his posture toward the Israeli government and its war against Hamas. This is almost certainly a diplomatic necessity, given the sort of leader that Netanyahu is, as well as the fact that most of the United States' key allies have substantially soured on the Israeli PM. It is also politically necessary, given how upset Biden's approach to Israel has made Arab Americans and young leftists. Do you think it is a coincidence that Biden issued the order 4 hours before a major campaign event in Michigan, where there are many Arab-American voters? We don't.
It is not probable that Biden will ever turn against Israel entirely, or even that he'll turn against them substantially. But he can't play the game other presidents have, and be 100% pro-Israel 100% of the time. Which means that, in turn, Benjamin Netanyahu was placed on notice yesterday. How he will respond is an excellent question. (Z)