Israel Issues ‘Red Line’ Alert as US Targets Israel’s Military Unit Over Human Rights Violation in West Bank

US Israel Relations: According to a report on Saturday from the Axio news site, the US is set to impose sanctions on an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) unit for suspected breaches of Palestinian civilians’ human rights in the West Bank. The Biden government would be taking action against an Israeli military unit for the first time with this.

Controversial History of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion

Past disputes over the Netzah Yehuda battalion’s right-wing extremism and violence against Palestinians have dogged the group. Omar As’ad, a 78-year-old Palestinian-American, also passed away as a result of being arrested by the battalion soldiers.

According to The Times of Israel, he was tied, blindfolded, and then discovered abandoned in almost freezing temperatures. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed disapproval of the US’s proposed action, calling it a “moral low” and the “height of absurdity.”

Netanyahu’s Twitter Response

“Sanctions must not be imposed on the Israel Defence Forces! In recent weeks, I have been working against the imposition of sanctions on Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with senior American government officials,” he tweeted.

“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. The government headed by me will act by all means against these moves,” he said.

Minister Ben Gvir’s Firm Stand Against Sanctions

Itamar Ben Gvir, Israel’s Minister of National Security, stated that placing penalties “on the soldiers of Netzah Yehuda was a red line”. Gvir referred to the Axios report as “grave” and stated that he anticipated Defense Minister Yoav Gallant would resist following American orders.

He threatened to ask Israel‘s defense ministry to combine the battalion with the nation’s border police if they did not act to support it. The Netzah Yehuda is an army unit made up primarily of ultra-Orthodox soldiers who are allowed to serve their country without compromising their religious convictions. The soldiers are given more time for prayer and religious studies, but they are not permitted to mingle with female soldiers.

Netzah Yehuda Moves Out of West Bank

Israel moved the unit out of the West Bank in December 2022, and it has since primarily operated in the country’s north. The Jewish state, however, refuted accusations that troops’ behavior led to the unit being moved out.

According to Axios, which cited sources, Leahy Laws prevent Netzah Yehuda soldiers from participating in any US-funded activities or training with US troops. The restrictions will also prevent the US from supplying the unit with weaponry.

Background and Application in US-Israel Relations

The statutes, which bear the name of the former senator Patrick Leahy, prohibit organizations or persons from receiving military support if they are suspected of violating human rights and have not been prosecuted, according to The Times of Israel.

According to sources cited in the Axios piece, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken opted not to sanction other Israeli military and police groups that the Biden administration was looking into because of their noticeable improvement in behavior.

The study was released a few days after a ProPublica story claimed that Blinken should impose sanctions on many Israeli organizations, including Netzah Yehuda, for alleged violations of human rights, based on the recommendation of a State Department panel.

Implications of Troop Misconduct

Notably, a number of the battalion’s troops were implicated in and previously found guilty of abusing Palestinian detainees. Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7 of last year, the US has so far levied penalties against people who have committed acts of violence against Palestinians.

Since Hamas launched an unprecedented offensive on Israel, killing some 1,200 people there and starting the war, more than 34,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza. Benzi Gopstein, the leader of the far-right organization Lehava and a close associate of Gvir, was included in the most recent round of penalties, which went into effect on Friday, according to The Times of Israel.

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