Earlier this month, President Biden issued a landmark National Security Memorandum (NSM -20) requiring that all countries receiving US security assistance provide the US with credible and reliable written assurances that they will comply with international humanitarian law and other applicable international law prior to receiving US assistance. Now, as Israel is preparing to invade Rafah, the United States must ensure that the consequences of violating the principles set out in NSM-20 are clear and enforced.
Rafah has served as the least dangerous place of refuge in Gaza for the over one million displaced Palestinians seeking a modicum of safety. Conditions in northern and central Gaza are dire, leaving refugees with no other viable alternatives for shelter and safety.
Dear President Biden,
We write to express our deep sense of urgency and alarm about the potentially devastating consequences to innocent civilians of an Israeli military ground invasion of Rafah. We share the position highlighted by US Ambassador to the UN Thomas-Greenfield that “no attacks on Rafah should take place, given current circumstances.” An extensive Israeli offensive in Rafah would further deteriorate the already dreadful conditions for civilians, more than half of whom are on the brink of famine, as well as risk the lives of the 130 Israeli and American hostages still held in Gaza by exposing them to the threat of aerial bombardments and derailing a negotiated agreement that could lead to their release.
As the north of Gaza has become increasingly dangerous for civilians, Rafah has served as the least dangerous place of refuge in Gaza for the over one million displaced Palestinians seeking safety from this brutal conflict. Conditions in northern and central Gaza are dire, leaving refugees with no other viable alternatives for shelter and safety.
We are deeply concerned that any further expansion into Rafah will compound the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The densely populated nature of the city and the presence of a huge number of displaced Palestinians raise profound concerns about potential civilian casualties and the ability of nongovernmental organizations to successfully deliver vital humanitarian aid.
Our foreign policy must seek to uphold the inherent safety, dignity and worth of every individual even in the midst of horrific violence. A steadfast commitment to U.S. and international law, with a central focus on safeguarding civilian life, must remain a guiding principle in the provision of U.S. assistance to aid recipients.
In alignment with this commitment, we express our gratitude for your recent National Security Memorandum 20 (NSM-20) on Safeguards and Accountability with Respect to Transferred Defense Articles and Defense Services. This memorandum represents a significant step towards ensuring that military operations supported by U.S. tax dollars strictly adhere to both American and international humanitarian law. The inclusion of measures designed to minimize civilian casualties underscores our dedication to promoting lawful and responsible conduct in all security endeavors funded by the United States.
However, we wish to highlight that further expansion into Rafah would likely contravene the principles set forth in NSM-20. The memorandum emphasizes the importance of credible assurances from recipient countries that they will use U.S. weapons in adherence with international humanitarian law. While we continue to urge Israel to avoid an expanded operation in Rafah, we share your obvious concern about the absence of a credible plan for the safety and support of the more than one million civilians sheltering in Rafah. Prime Minister Netanyahu has reportedly presented an evacuation plan to his security cabinet, but we remain concerned by an apparent lack of U.S. and international consultation, participation, and involvement in these plans. Calls from members of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government for illegal policies such as the expulsion and transfer of civilians to destinations outside the Gaza Strip demand careful attention to make sure that any evacuation plan is consistent with the principles set forth in NSM-20. As contemplated by the Administration’s policy, a ground invasion that runs counter to the specific principles outlined in NSM-20 should not be supported by U.S. taxpayer-funded assistance.
We urge you to use every tool at your disposal to ensure that the norms of American and international law are observed throughout this conflict and that all recipients of U.S. aid are held accountable to the commitments demanded by NSM-20. Peace is an urgent moral and political imperative, and strict adherence to international humanitarian law will help guide us on the road to peace.
Rep. Joaquin Castro
Rep. Jamie Raskin
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Dr. Dahlia Scheindlin, a scholar and writer, is an international political and strategic consultant. She has advised and conducted research on nine national campaigns in Israel over the past twenty years, and has provided research and advising for elections, referendums, and civil society campaigns in fifteen different countries.
Madeleine Cereghino 00:50
Hi, welcome to the Americans for peace now webinar. I'm Madeleine Cereghino, APNS, Director of Government Relations, and I will be introducing our guests in a moment. But before we get started, I'll give our usual housekeeping notes. First off, you'll see that this is being recorded. It will be available on our YouTube in a little bit. And we will be taking questions towards the end of the webinar. If you have a question during just feel free to type it into the question box. And we will get to it as we can. But try to keep your question as distinct as possible. And yeah, that's about it. So this webinar, we'll be talking about President Biden's new executive order and settler violence. As we saw in 2023, there was a significant surge in settler violence in the West Bank. And now President Biden has taken the unprecedented step to curb this violence by earlier this month issuing an executive order targeting Israeli settlers accused of perpetrating attacks against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists. The order while initially focusing on for individuals has broader reaching implications for the enterprise. Stay, we are privileged to have two distinguished experts with us, Joel Braunold, the managing director at SDN Abraham's Center for Middle East peace, and Lior Amihai, I' executive director of Peace Now or, as it's called in Hebrew Shalom Achshav. They will be providing us with insights into President Biden's Executive Order, its potential impact on mitigating extremist settlers, and the broader implications on the settler enterprise. So let's get into it. Before we begin talking about the executive order itself, however, I'm going to ask your if you could give us an understanding of the situation in the West Bank, there's been a notable certain settler violence, particularly under this current coalition. So could you shed light on the factors contributing to this rise? Are there specific policy changes or political dynamics within the coalition that have influenced this trend? And additionally, following the terrorist attacks on October 7, have you observed any shifts in their frequency or nature of of violence, or perhaps the heightened willingness to ignore stellar activities by the Israeli authorities? That's a lot of questions in one.
Lior Amihai 03:12
Thank you, Madeline. And thank you, APN, for hosting myself and for all the participants are listening to us right now. So thank you for this opportunity, and to talk about this very important issue. And you did ask a lot of questions. Madmen, so maybe I'll say from from pitch. Now, I'll say a word. I'm sure most people know this. But we have, you know, if we simplify things, two major operations, one of them is the peace data movement, where we try to represent Israelis who want to reach a two state solution and to end the occupation. And the other is our settlement watch team. And there we have two known experts who their work their day job is to research on the ground, the developments that are happening in the settlement enterprise. And these two researchers are doing this for so not just these two, but he's now has been doing this since the early 1990s. And is giving us a lot of insights to what's actually happening on the ground, and the different, the nuances and the changes and the implications of these changes. Now, I think that we have, we're just finishing off an extraordinary year in terms of the settlement enterprise, and you can really divide it into two parts. The first part is from the formation of this current government and until October 7, and of course, highlighted by the judicial coup, the the attempt to change the judicial system in the state of Israel. And then of course since October 7, material Hamas terror attack and the war that followed since and I think from from a very interesting perspective to our in our eyes, is that settlement activity and right think politics disregard had significant, if not the most significant influence and impact to both of these things, you know, elements of characteristics of these two periods. And what we've seen that since the formation of this government, and until October 6, and then since October 7, today is just an extraordinary year in terms of settlement activities and development. It's I don't know how much details you want me to go into this. But if we're talking about sector violence, I think I'll just say two things about them. So one is direct settler violence, which received, you know, our criticism towards settler violence was that it is, you know, or one of the precursors are major criticism is that the Israeli government and the law enforcement mechanisms of the State of Israel, that is chiefly the military and the police, that one that they don't do enough to prevent it. And two is that they actually support it in their actions. And what we're seeing through this government is, is just that this is, you know, we're we've seen the head of the ministry of the police come up, then we're, you know, it was it was leaked that he ordered them not to deal with the police not to deal with violence. This is not important, for example, and or to get over to the hilltops to build settlements, or to, you know, the Minister of Finance to say, to burn down or to destroy a Palestinian village for that this is all ministers in this government. And this is the spirit that is coming top down. Now, on the ground, this, we saw this, you know, we saw, we saw, we saw a lot of settler violence, a lot of groups that sort of groups that go down to Palestinian villages that throw stones at them through a cocktail, but will sink overalls during this past year, something that even if we saw them in the past, we didn't see it in this extent, and in this intensity, since. And, and it's just unbelievable how much we witness to this year. And if we would have spoken a year and two months ago, I would have still told you that settler violence is horrible and significant. And it's shameful for me as an Israeli that we have portions of our of our country that actually conducted and that our government and law enforcement still don't prevent. So this is certainly has been an intensified year in settler violence, both the intensity and the quantity and quality. And the second thing is, of course, the outcomes or the purpose of settler violence. And I think there's a really important message here. And that is that center violence, you know, and this is what we say. And if you've, you know, if you if you've heard talks about certain events, if you've read about it, this is something that's very important, it's separate violence is is a means to an end, it's a political mean for political ends. And very often we used to say that it has two aims, one, it is to terrorize casting communities, that they will be afraid that they will stay within their homes that they won't leave, that they won't go to the office olive harvest, or they'll stay in their homes, etc. And to and I'll just say here, you must be reminded that these are Palestinians under occupation that don't have people police to protect them or law enforcement of their own to protect them. So they're completely dependent on an Israeli mechanisms, which are failing them dramatically. And then the second purpose is to take control over land and territory. And we see this by pushing 1000 computers away and establishing outposts and settlements later on and taking children territory. Now, in both these regards, we've seen this intensify again, the pogroms that we've seen. And I'll say even more than that, and of course, in the in the outposts that were established, and I'll say two examples. And then I'll say another purpose that was revealed this year. We've seen throughout this year that the center's in 2023. They built 26 New outposts. Now 26 New outposts means what is six new settlements, it's the same, you know, meaning eventually an outpost is a settlement that doesn't have the official Israeli approval. And we've seen the process of developers of the Start with a small outpost and they expand and they grow etc. And so this year alone, settlers initiated 26 new settlements underground. And the mere images that they also because of settler violence, and because of lack of protection by the Israeli military police. We saw 21 Palestinian communities that were forcibly displaced five of them before October 6, and under this government and 16 of them Immediately following October 7, and these are two images, images, one is to take over territory and to establish settlements in control. And the other is to take the other person's away, take them to take over the lands and prevent them from reaching them as to transfer them basically. Now, this is what's happened in 2020. It's Vietnam. But another thing that I want to say, this is something that I wouldn't have said, and, and again, these are, you know, I, before I was with peace, now, he's not deals with stuff about us very intensively. But I was also the director of ESD, in which is directly involved in you know, this is what he does. And so I noticed from very close the work and center balance. So but so if we would have met in 2020, late 2022, I would have told you all all what I said, I would have felt the only not in this dramatic fashion now, but it was still very, very dramatic. And still a lot of things have happened, but not as much as a witness this year. But what I wouldn't have told you at all, is the third purpose of settler violence. And this is something that we've seen, or that we are analyzing, or we believe it's happening since October 7. And that is the wish, or the intention that settler violence will lead to the to initiate a third fighting front, we have the fighting the war in Gaza, we're seeing fighting in the north with with with Hezbollah, and in South Lebanon. And of course, the Houthi is and then from the sea and everything. But we are seeing where we're analyzing that settlers who are participating in such events. There's another intention, and that is to create chaos and war, again, in order to have a moment for them to meet their Masonic ambitions of taking over the entire territory, this is what they want, they do not want to come down and they do not want things to reach peaceful or a stable situation rather the exact opposite. And we're seeing it from the from the ministers that represent these separate ballots and to of course, underground. And I'll end here and I'll just say that I think that the American sanctions that were imposed for the first time, in relation to Israel symbolizes three things, or it means it's because of three things. One, it's shameful, but true, and unbelievably hard for me to say, but the American government administration is telling Israel, that it doesn't believe it's law enforcement. They're sanctioning senators, not because they have a lot of files in the police. So they were acquitted or anything, is because they're taking things to their own head. They're having their own list. And they're deciding No, this is we don't trust the Israeli law enforcement mechanism. So we will, we will have our own list, and we will decide who enters the us and we will will sanction them, because we don't want anyone to be affiliated with them. This is dramatic. The second thing is that I think that they lack trust, that the Israeli government wants to have a two state solution and wants to end the conflict or to have peace, if we would have had another government, even under the circumstance of a two state solution that the government that they could work with they could trust, I don't think the US would have went this point. Thirdly, and I think this is the most important thing for the Americans. And this is something that we felt long before October 7, is that the most important interest of the US is that there will be de escalation they want to deal with the violence won't erupt, but the region will be stable. And I think that they realize, rightfully so that settler violence could certainly threaten an opening of a third front. And they are doing that the US administration is now taking action in order to prevent it because they don't see that the Israeli government to the Israeli military, and these are the police are doing anything to prevent it. So they're seeing that the danger, the risk, that a third front could erupt due to settler violence. And they're taking steps in in order to prevent this. So I think I'll end here. I think I've said enough already. Thank
Madeleine Cereghino 14:11
you so much. I think that gives us a really great picture of the situation that we're working with. So I'd love to turn to you. We've obviously mentioned the executive order, but we haven't actually talked about it. Do you think you could run through the basics of it, what it does, how it works, etc?
Joel Braunold 14:28
Yeah, sure. Thanks, APN. for having me. It's a pleasure to be with you and with Lior and of course, with Ori, who's been a staple of our, of our small community in Washington for a very long time. When I first saw the text of the executive order, I was actually floored, like bowled away the Biden administration for the first time in history, the US has created a unique sanctions regime just in the West Bank. Ominous Actually not just in the West Bank, Matt das apparently found out that it also includes East Jerusalem. It's not in the text of the order, but he checked. And so West Bank and East Jerusalem, I should say. So the the executive order basically uses the same authorities that the President has when he does sanctions on Russian oligarchs and Iran on lots of other different things. He uses the powers given to him by EEPA, which is the Emergency Economic Powers Act that enables him to declare a national emergency and then declare sanctions against people who are exacerbating that emergency. The sanctions are full flag sanctions. So it's not just travel restrictions to enter into the United States, but basically says that the foreign individuals named by such sanctions are functioning cut off from all US financial systems. And we'll get into what that actually means in a second, and prevents a US citizens or US persons, which includes green cards, from supporting, donating, doing anything that would materially support those sanctioned individuals. So it's the same sanctions that you'd have if you are a Russian oligarch, or you are breaking human rights works, it's identical. The executive order is not targeted, actually, just settlers and settler violence in the administration on the q&a said, it's anyone in the West Bank, and it can include Palestinians. I think it's important to note that the West Bank is full of sanctioned individuals at this point, mainly Palestinians, if not exclusively, Palestinians, before this executive order, who are under sanctions because of foreign terrorist organization connections. And so if you've ever done work in the West Bank, whether you're a human rights organization or peacebuilding organization, we're very aware of the difficulty of working within an environment with many different US sanctions individuals, and entities. But the executive order is targeted, as the administration said, it's settled islands. But I think this is really key. If you read the text of the executive order, the first thing that it says when it goes down in terms of what this is targeting, it's anyone who is to be responsible or complicit in or who has directly or indirectly engaged in or attempted to engage in the following. Okay, the first thing is actions. So what are these actions? And I think including directing, enacting or implementing, enforcing or failing to enforce policies that threaten the peace, stability, or security of the West Bank, that is tremendously broad. Okay, that is not if you're committing acts of violence, that that is, if the administration takes it that you are someone who is either failing to enforce directly or indirectly doing anything that threatens the peace, stability and security of the West Bank. It's so broad that, you know, some people on the left have poo pooed, the executive order is ridiculous, it doesn't do anything. And asked you to look at the people on the political right, who are very much not believing that Ambassador David Friedman commented that this is basically an ability for the President to sanction anyone who disagrees with his policies. Eugene control rich from the Kohala forum, wrote that this is a gigantic issue as data rich Goldberg from FTD concerned those politically elected on the right recognize that this is a this is a completely new set of tools that the administration has created for itself. It continues that, you know, if you are threatening or participating acts of violence targeting civilians, if you place civilians in a reasonable fear of violence, such as property destruction cease or dispossession of the property by private actors, or if you're a leading any entity, including the government entity that participates in, basically property destruction, or seizure, or violence, or threaten the peace and stability and security of the West Bank, this can target you. So when it came out, I wrote on on Twitter or X, whatever we're calling it nowadays, that basically the Biden administration has created a weapon of mass destruction against the entire settlement enterprise, if they so choose to use it in that manner. But they're using it as a scalpel and the administration at the beginning on February 1, when it announced this name for individuals who they decided to target with this initial initial round of sanctions. And I think it's interesting to see what happened when they announced it. For something that was so momentous at on the first, you know, wave of responses. The Israelis kind of shrug their shoulders. I mean, the prime minister's office put out a statement that said, you know, this seems inappropriate. But that was pretty much it. And the targeted individuals were like, I don't I don't do work in the US or why do I care? You know, within two days, all their bank accounts were frozen, and they couldn't work out why And then the finance minister, Mr. SmartSwitch, ordered the banks to restore their services and then found that he couldn't. There are crowdfunding campaigns made for the sanctioned individuals that were suddenly shut down. And all of these things are because I didn't think anyone in Israel, and definitely not the philanthropic scene that I'm sure we'll get to later, has experienced what it's like to actually deal with the US sanctions regime. And, and it's rarely banks, especially if they have branches in the US, or if they're, you know, participating in the SWIFT system are obligated to comply or be under significant risk of penalties and potentially criminal liability themselves. So it's a very serious action the administration is taking and reflecting of Leo's first answer. The reason that the Biden administration has reached this point is that since it was sworn into office, the Biden administration has raised the issue of settler violence again, and again and again. And they have felt that the issue has not and was not being taken seriously enough, especially by this Israeli coalition. They have been extremely frustrated by the fact that this has been raised and that they see, you know, as ehdn has put out very, very low percentages of cases followed up. Before October 7, we had the whole backwards and forwards of what was going on in Hawara. And everything else in the administration is watched with dismay. And despite many calls to the Israeli government to deal with this phenomenon, they felt that hadn't and say they felt we're going to take this issue into our own hands. And by creating a sanctions regime, the administration has broken a seal. And that seal means that and I said this on a on a previous event, I was just that, from the moment the Biden administration did this. They have now created a new reality. And as well, and until the conflict with the Palestinians is ended, Israel will never again be a country whose individuals are not under sanctions, Western sanctions, because even should a different administration, the Trump administration come in and take away the executive order. The UK and France have already issued their own sanctions. And given that new reality, this has created a new situation for violent settlers, that they will now be subjected to Western sanctions and financial sanctions. And that's a completely new ballgame.
Madeleine Cereghino 22:21
Thank you. If you want to add anything, feel free to jump in. Alright, then I'll move on to our next question. You know, I want to talk a little bit about how significant this executive order is compared to previous steps that were made. You know, like you said it, I believe you called it a nucular nuclear. What would you call it?
Joel Braunold 22:45
A weapon of mass destruction.
Madeleine Cereghino 22:46
A method of mass destruction. Sorry, WMD. So, yeah, I was wondering if you could talk about how significant this step is. I know, at the end of last year, the Biden administration announced a travel ban. But this is obviously taking you much further.
Joel Braunold 23:03
It's many magnitudes further, I think that when we look at advocates have been calling on the on us administration's to use leverage to use sticks, all other different manners. Often a lot of the approach had been on Congress trying to move congressional legislation, restrictions, whatever it might be. The administration through this action, basically utilize the existing authority, which is vast, the President's emergency powers a gigantic and utilize that in this context. And by doing so he created a sanctions regime out of thin air, and basically empowered treasury and state to suggest people they could add on to it. If you're just banning a visa, if you don't want to come to the United States, okay, you can continue, it doesn't seem to affect the individual by having a full sanctions. And now the Israelis recognizing what that actually means in terms of the loss of an ability to participate in basically modern banking services. If the administration forces the sanctions against these for to the fullest extent, the political ripples and repercussions in Israel are gigantic. Already, you know, we've heard Israelis sweet support, who is a member of Ben graves party who heads up the Subcommittee on security in the West Bank, and others have said, How could it be someone who's not even under investigation or has been cleared by the Government of Israel could be sanctioned in this way? These people are, you know, they are? What does they say? They say, you know, the fruit of the earth, you know, hardworking individuals. Well, this is what America is a superpower looks like, and they can utilize and bully their way to try and get that their manner. And as Leo said, and I think it's important, this leverage is being used about a specific issue. The administration is furious about what they feel as a lack of care of trying to prevent the West Bank from imploding and there's desert I'd like to try and create it. And so they've taken this issue into their own hands. And it was reported yesterday, I think in the Times of Israel the day before, that they're going to announce another round of sanctioned individuals. And we've seen before, I'm Scott Anderson mentioned, this is a Brookings, other sanctions regimes have started very small and then have grown. And this new leverage tool that the Biden administration has created, the political reverberations and so on, but what this can mean, a significant and can continue to be significant. And if the Israeli government officials, such as Mr. Ben Vera, Mr. Smotrich respond, by doing things that upset the Americans, we could see an escalation or an escalatory cycle move quite quickly.
Madeleine Cereghino 25:47
Thank you, um, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what these the way this could be expanded. First off, you mentioned Ben fear and smoke rush, do you foresee the possibility of it being extended to include, you know, politicians and others, really government officials who, you know, incite or support, felon or violence? And what considerations might influence the decision to add more individuals to the sanctions list?
I'll go first and then feel free. It was reported at the time and Axios Barak Ravid, claimed the bank there was on the less than was taken off just before you know, to sanction or sitting cabinet security cabinet member of the government of Israel will be a gigantic escalation. Let's just be be very clear. That's not something that I think you do casually. I think that the Americans are trying to demonstrate and they say this in the executive order. And other things, when you look at this, the sanctions aren't meant as a punishment, they're meant as as to correct someone's behavior. Okay, so if they see the Israelis taking actions to curb settler violence, I would assume that they would use this to less. If they don't, then I assume that they would use this to more. The executive order, as I commented just before is extraordinarily broad in terms of who it can target. It could target units in in Koga, it could target settler regional councils, it could target institutions that the dispossessed Palestinians and give it to private sector individuals. But it could also target Palestinians if they felt that Palestinians were participating in a similar approach. And they could list additional Palestinians onto such a sanctions list. And that would be the case, especially if they couldn't identify a Palestinian as a member of a terrorist organization, this would give them the authority to prevent Palestinians participating in similar things that would threaten the peace, stability and security of the West back. So the expansion opportunities are limitless. The limitation on them is what does the administration want to achieve? And how does it attempt to achieve it? You know, you could sanction everyone, but suddenly, the enforcement of that is is gigantic. And like any tool, if it is what you put into it, if you start with small and you enforce those small ones fully, it has a debt, it should have a deterrence effect. If you put 1000 people on it, and you don't enforce it very well, then it doesn't really have a deterrent effect. So it's it's something that again, it's a new tool, it means that OFAC lawyers, and people who follow this state, you've got to build a whole infrastructure around this to monitor and make sure that what's happened is being enforced in order to give it credibility. So I don't expect personally a massive expansion, significantly hundreds of names coming on this very soon. But I do expect this to ratchet up that if there's credible evidence that is delivered, often, it seems through the USI USSC, United States Security coordinator is a three star general. And it comes up to state and it's checked and it's verified. And it's credible, that more individuals be added until the deterrence effect is created that people take this seriously. And the political outcry in Israel and they all pass this off to you to to get your thoughts on this will only increase with four people. It's one thing if you've got 100 people, if you've got, you know, a head of a settler Regional Council isn't isn't important vigor in illiquid primary. It's going to change the entire dynamics of this. And I'll finish by saying I commented earlier in the last question, that the Israeli response when the sanctions were initially announced, was limited. Well, since then, it's been reported that the Prime Minister has raised this with the Secretary of State and with the President, and as asked, you know, his key personnel in the US relationship, were on Burma to ask for urgent clarifications about what this could and couldn't mean. I think the Israelis are becoming aware very quickly about what this is. And now a panic is probably too strong word but extremely concerned about what This could look like and the dynamics and the tremors are creating this current Israeli coalition. But Lior, I'll pass over to you for for anything more than that.
Lior Amihai 30:09
Look, I think you summed it up very well just say that two points on this. And I think it You did mention this, let me do this flashing. There's one, it's but it's not only us. And we know that there's a lot of discussions in Europe on this. So not only some European countries have followed suit, to some degree, this might escalate, you know, the moment when we might be able to see more European countries following this. So, you know, this is, you know, the left the, you know, the you say that, like the machine is rolling now. So we will see where, where it goes. And the second is that I think, what's key here is that, eventually, there's a lot of how the Americans will feel towards the Israel, the government's will mean a lot about how this will follow. And even these for now that they've set up the sanction we published in, you know, our settlement watch team, publish that one of the settlers that was sanctioned, had a contract with a trust of the one of the Central Regional Councils. And even after he was sanctioned, the same trust also issued, you know, raised funds for him, which was suddenly stopped. If, for example, the Americans decide in the sanctions, or the executive order does say that anyone who engages with the sanctions would also be sanctioned, or will also be in trouble. So if the Americans, for example, decide to implement what they said, in that sense, to only to the regional councils trust, although theoretically, they can also go to the entire Regional Council, which is, you know, it's as Joel said, it's very, very broad if they go, so we'll see. But theoretically, this could be a very dramatic and very big, and I think that now is we're learning where this will develop. And I think the Israel response to it will be very important, and all levels on Southern violence, but also maybe another political levels as well. And so I think it's more to come. But I will just say this that, since the sanctions were put out, we did see several violence at play. So there are at least some groups that this is not deterring them. And so we'll see how the Israeli government and law enforcement mechanisms respond to this, because I doubt that this will be enough to prevent the phenomena. So we'll have to see the Americans show that they're serious and that this is sincere and European will follow. And we'll see how Israel responds, which is, so far, you know, until to date, I think we could say, very confidently, that the Israeli law enforcement mechanisms or the government of Israel failed on all fronts at all periods of time to deal adequately with the balance. Let's speak in a couple of weeks or months to see if things have changed.
Madeleine Cereghino 33:03
So you touched on this Lior, was the settler with a trust in Hebron. But I want to get into that a little bit more, and how this executive order could really impact overseas fundraising for settlement. Do we see a potential human looking to both you are in jail for, you know, the financial aspect involved to kind of Curb not just settler violence, but settler activities in general, if we start seeing us based fundraising caught up in the sanctions?
Lior Amihai 33:41
Long? Very briefly, because I think I think Joel will have maybe even a broader, or a much broader answer to this. But I'll say very briefly, that, from what I gather, from what I sense, it really depends on how the Americans implement this. Again, the Hebron Regional Council and the trust of the Hebron rebooted Kashmir Council, certainly receives I'm sure receives funding also from from us donors, but it doesn't matter. Because if they deal with one of the sanctions, one of the individuals who sanctioned so it doesn't matter where your money come from you can you be suffered. So it's not just about American funds. Now, it's about anything they can, it can stop the entire, you know, without drugs, really. So it really depends how far they will decide to go. And, and how significant and of course, you know, if you take it to it's not even a very broad level. But if we look at settler violence, in the most, you know, simple terms, then it's just direct balance, right. But if you take an outpost, for example, which is preventing Palestinians from reaching their lands, or building on private land or lands of a nearby Palestinian village, right, that could also be interpreted as violence, and all of these outposts are funded directly or indirectly by Israeli money, or Israeli government money, Israeli Council, regional, our settlement councils and money, etc. So, again, I really think that it's too early to know. But at least what we're sensing is that it's definitely not a last word. I don't think that this will end here. I think that at least what we're sensing, what we're the information that we're sort of hearing and gathering is that the Americans are serious as they know, to be serious. And they've definitely that's the last word. And I think that how is responsible, you know, will, will affect how this will continue. So,
I'll say a few words. The first day, there was a big piece in the Jewish telegraphic agency, I think came out yesterday before about us philanthropy and our people worried and most people were like, you know, not really, but those who, who, who processed donations on behalf of Israeli charities. So if an Israeli charity is not its own 501 C three, often you'll have a path through someone's fiscal agent or US path or something else. Those organizations have a legal responsibility to make sure that they are obeying US law. So I can tell you as someone in a previous before I did this job, I was very involved in peacebuilding, I had to have my own OFAC checks. And before I would send wires to peace builders or anything else, I had to check them against the list to make sure they weren't sanctioned individuals and know where the money was going. If I didn't do that, and I by accident, sent money to someone, I could be liable, because I didn't have a system in place. Again, Jewish philanthropy in the West Bank, again, if you're dealing in like Russia, like Chabad, for example, is extremely aware of sanctions law, because they deal in places that are often under US sanctions. Okay. So like, that's normal. But if you've never dealt with the US sanctions regime, I think a lot of our community in the Jewish community thinks this is just like another IRS issue. This is not another IRS issue. Okay, OFAC and the Department of Justice is no joke, it is extraordinarily serious. And so being able to identify who your money is benefiting, if there are sanctioned individuals around, and as Leo said, it's for people at the moment. So you can say, Okay, I'm not funding this for communities, whatever else fine. But if it starts hitting additional, larger entities, be it like the hawk LeBron, or other additional individuals or individuals who had entities, each one hits an entire spiderweb of things that turn red, okay, and you need to know, if you have exposure. Again, it doesn't mean that overnight, a group is going to shut down. But it does mean that you need to have protocols to examine where your money is going. And you can't just, you know, use donor advised funds and send them to, you know, random groups in the West Bank, if you don't know where it is. And I'll add, when the the administration issued the executive order, it also issued a thin send notice, which is a notice that Treasury sent out to every banking institution that's connected to the US, telling them what to look for red flags to see if people are trying to create a conspiracy to get around the order, which includes funding to know who the board members are of different West Bank groups, if there's paramilitary gear being sent, all these things that the banking regulatory authority should red flag, the administration is trying to up the level of risk for groups who are utilizing the banking system spot. And I'll say, we've seen this exact same issue when it comes to supporting Palestinian rights work, where different banking institutions and payment processors basically say it's too risky to work in the West Bank, because you could you could come up foul of sanctions, the more sanctioned individuals that are the higher the level of risk for banks and payment processors to operate in that area. And so this isn't just a nature of, well, this sanction dividual or another, the level of due diligence necessary and the risk that the third party payment processes take increases with every sanctioned individual entity. And so you're also going to see that there could be a threshold that I think my main message on all of this and to reflect Lior, this isn't a light action that President Biden took. If you could have told me that on October 8, that the President was going to issue a sanctions regime on the West Bank, I would have said you are smoking something like there's no way. I think it is a an exercise in that otter frustration and the desire to prevent an explosion in the West Bank that they've reached this level.
Madeleine Cereghino 39:36
Thank you. We have a number of questions from the chat. So I'm going to try to weave them in together as we're nearing your time here. I know we touched on the Israeli government's response, but I'd love to spend a little more time on it. Do we think these pressures will eventually influence policies regarding settlement expansion? And do we expect any A change, of course by the Israeli government. Also, there have been reports that Israel has been surveilling US data on settler attacks, not necessarily a part of it basically as part of Israel's effort to counter potential sanctions, indicating that the government is more interested in countering the sanctions than the settler violence itself. Maybe Lior, if you want to start with that.
Lior Amihai 40:29
Madeleine Cereghino 40:30
I mean, I think we want to talk about more of the Israeli response. If you know, this is true. You see the Netanyahu government really interested in countering these accusations, wanting to know what the US knows rather than preventing the violence itself?
Lior Amihai 40:46
Look, I think, I think a couple of things. One, I think that Joel described it very correctly, in detail how the Israelis responded, and at first it was we ignored, it's not a big deal. And they started to realize it. And I must say that I think that in Israel, their campaign began a couple of weeks or months ago already saying that there is no such thing as settler violence. So I think something in Israel, in Redman groups in the government in pro settler settler violence groups, there's understanding that something is happening, and that they have to do they have to respond, that they haven't dealt with this, they didn't realize how significant the issue of settler violence is being treated in the international community in the US. So they're trying to respond to it. Now, so. So they're working in there. I don't know how Israel responded potentially, to this and how this will escalate or expand or, you know, nobody knows. I will say two things from, you know, knowing the Israeli government and the Israeli response, in general, under the DNA is one that Israel hasn't said its last word either. And I think that Israel will also use its political leverages, in order to pressure Europe and US in their ways to de escalate this or to explain themselves or to argue this, it feels like Israel wasn't ready wasn't a little bit surprised them to some degree, but they weren't prepared for this. And now, these reports, for example, that they're trying to figure out how the US is getting this into their information and so on is, I think, is an indication of that. And the second is that again, look at the settler. The southern motivation, this settler force, that is, is that is the forces to take over Palestinian land. And to go back, you know, now they're called there's a campaign to write to establish someone's in the Gaza Strip right now read this as part of the the center ambitions. Israel, I think, never there was no one period of time that we managed to prevent this force from, from, you know, from from playing out, in, you know, during times of peace negotiations, during times of war, we're seeing it now, some in the past during its photos, and during parts of a period of stagnation with the Central Powers are always at play. So and, you know, we will this does not right now and discourage being this is not enough, of course, to prevent a certain movement from continuing, they will we will continue, they will find their ways and moods to continue. They still do they're still doing to this day. You know, after the sanctions, we still saw tenders being issued for settlements, we're seeing things very dangerous developments in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, for example, that could certainly escalate violence. So Israel has not shifted its policies at all one single bit because of the sanctions. So I don't think it's this is a game changer. Yet in this sense, however, again, it's way too soon to see we'll see how the, the American will continue to play. And we'll see how Israel deals with this. It's I think, for me, it's too early to know exactly how this will play out.
I think I'll say a few things. The first is we already saw an article in the tablet blaming generals for being hoodwinked by UN or pro Palestinian data. I mean, the evidence is so overwhelming from the video videos in the human rights community. And, you know, it's an absurd accusation, but we're already seeing that that motivated move forward. You know, it is it's already a legal issue like previous to the executive order. Roman Abramovich, who is a sanctioned Russian oligarch wanted to give a large donation to Zakka, which is a humanitarian Jewish group who collects body parts of the terror victims and was prevented from doing so by the bank. And that's gone all the way up to the Supreme Court because the bank says if we process this donation, we can be under US sanctions. And an appeals court said you should process it and it's gone all the way to the Supreme Court. The crowdfunding campaign for the sanction individual calling to the CEO has already gone to court. They're claiming look, it's worth kids. Why can't we have the money for the kids And the Court has said, Look, while we debate this, you can't have the money, the money needs to get back to the donors, because the risks are so high. So the judicial system is trying to process all of this work. But it's what is not Russia, it is not China, it is not Iran. Its banking system and economy is so integrated into locked into the US financial system, that they're especially vulnerable to this level of sanctions regime. So I do think we'll see. And depending on who the administration targets, if they start going off the people who they clearly think is just for political reasons, rather than those they can tie to violence and reaction in the US will be greater rather than smaller. And as long as they are looking at dispossession and violence. I think that that will be a critical determinator in terms of how you would advocate against it. There's not really a lobby for settler violence in the US, right, there's a quote, you know, some people on the left will say the whole sanction regimes a misnomer because settler violence is state violence. And by doing this, you're claiming that this individual rather than the state, and so there are critiques from the left, even if they think that the sanctions regime is an important goal that should have been happened a while ago. But from the right there isn't there are people saying, you know, this isn't our job, there's rarely judicial system or legal system, but people justifying violence against the settlers. It's not. It's not like a giant lobby of people who want to do that. But I'm sure there is a lot of discomfort about, about folks being sanctioned by US sanctions, who are an ally. And as I said, David Freeman has already promised that it won't last the first ever Trump administration, but the Israeli banks have to comply to UK and French sanctions as well. So the fact that it's already gone transnational, outside of the bilateral relationship is important.
Madeleine Cereghino 46:47
Thank you. Okay. We have a bunch of questions I want to get to I know we're running out of time. So I apologize if I move a little quickly here. First off, we touched a little bit on the reporting. And newer, I just want to give you a quick opportunity. I know Shalom Achshav has kind of created a reporting mechanism as well. And I'd love if you could speak briefly. I'm sorry about that.
Lior Amihai 47:14
Yeah, sure, I'd love to. And I'll say look, again, settler violence is something that is so significant. But until, by the way, until now, it was also ignored to a very large degree by the official state of Israel and by the Israeli media and public. So it's not a complete ignore. You can't hear about it the canvas and available large largely was ignored. We haven't seen until last year, I would see condemnations in any way. It took them a very long time to condemn the Huwara pogrom to call it terror attack by Israel. So these things escalated this year, but for many years, you know, Israel silent on this. And even I think now, on the sanctions, the mainstream media was, again, was not really gathering this was not understanding this is very shallow analysis of you know, oh, this is the Biden administration trying to pressure the State of Israel style, or this is just very, you know, they didn't know themselves how to deal with this. And, of course, the Israeli government was, was saying that this is an exaggeration, or they didn't realize where this came from, or that this, that they're wrong about this, and nobody really took dealt with the issue of settler violence and peace now. We felt that the Israeli public needed to hear this and you need to be felt that the Israeli public needed to know that settler violence is so horrible, that you know that the official response from anyone on this issue is to be ashamed or to say, Okay, we will do something to prevent it to stop it. Not to say that this is not happening, or to say, technically, the officials responsible, you know, this is not real, it's not really happening or, but to say, if this is happening, we'll do everything in our power to prevent it and stop it. And we tried to, we issued a campaign in the Israeli public to say that anyone who are and also the Palestinians anyway, should listen Arabic and Hebrew. Anyone who learns those hears videos, knows such a vast report to us, and will report to anyone, of course, will report first and foremost to the Israeli law enforcement mechanism, knowing that they won't do much as as, but also, as we do with all our work to the public and to the world. And if the Americans want to collect it will also report to the Americans and to the Europeans and whoever, because we feel and this is from an Israeli point of view, that this is so shameful and so wrong. It's so dangerous, especially now that Oh, it's so dangerous, that we have to use, you know all our powers in order to be part of the mechanism that prevents and stops it. So this is why we issued this. I'll say we also cooperated with an activist organization that's underground regularly so we have a researchers who study and know and help in there. sort of waste, but they're also activists are on the ground to see this. So we issued this together with, they're called in looking the occupation of the eye. And they have volunteers and activists on the ground, especially in the Jordan Valley and stuff. They've grown hills. So we do this together with them.
I just want to add two quick things. Firstly, there was a horrendous terrorist attack today and Maale Adumim. And many Israelis will point out saying you're you're talking about settler violence, and they're shooting up cars and killing pregnant people. And this is a disgraceful, how could you possibly be doing this? The US is frustration is an enforcement, they know that the ATF is gonna go after these terrorists, and then they'll demolish those terrorists, homes or wherever else, it's, there isn't a worry that when Palestinians commit acts of violence that the IDF doesn't, doesn't then go off and follow them. The war is the inverse. And it's all actually was enforcing peace, stability and security in the West Bank. There wouldn't be a need for this. I think that's important. I also perceive surely or and others continue to give information that leads to Israeli citizens being sanctioned. My expectation is they'll criminalize that in as well, in some way and claim that if you give information that leads to sanctions, that you can be civilly liable or criminally liable, and that's just gonna escalate the whole issue even more. So that's my expectation about what might happen next.
Madeleine Cereghino 51:18
Grim. Thank you, John. So I want to ask, we talked about, you know, kind of what would happen if the United States in a future presidency gets rid of this EO, and how, you know, the ball, the ship has sailed, so to speak, in that other countries have already taken action as well. The UK, France has banned travel from certain settlers. And it sounds like Spain is a stated that they'll impose their own sanctions if, in the course of the US current discussions that you decide not to. Do you see additional countries following suit? And what broader impact we think international collaboration could have. And if there's, maybe there's other tactics that also could be taken, in addition to sanctions by the interest community. Maybe that was too broad for 8 minutes left.
It's broad, but I'll just say, look, I think it's important to understand why leverage exists and where it doesn't, you know, coupled with the EEO The administration also issued a national security memo, trying to ensure that those who receive defense articles from the United States obey international humanitarian law and enable us supported or us direct humanitarian assistance that was issued on February 8, and together with the EO, I've claimed, that this is the Biden administration creating leverage. But the leverage is for something very particular, I think we can't make things the administration and I'd even argue its regional and international allies are not looking to use sticks to push the Israelis into a peace process with the Palestinians. They're not. They're not, for example, using this to force a normalization deal with the Saudis. And for Israel to recognize a Palestinian state. That is not what these tools are being utilized for. And it would be a mistake of people thought that they were, the EO is being used to moderate and to prevent settler violence. That is what it is meant to the national security member is meant to moderate and try and change, or at least limit Israeli behavior in Gaza to align with standing US laws. So when Minister Smotrich bans flower coming in from Ashdod that the prime minister promised to the Secretary of State and and the President, that there will be a significant consequence of that isn't resolved by March 25, when a signed agreement between the parties after commit? So do I see more international support for sanctioning against violence in the West Bank violence settlers? should there not be an adequate response by the State of Israel to prevent this phenomenon? Yes, I do. And I think that should the Trump administration come back into power and when he foreign remove the executive order, I could imagine the Europeans moving farther as well as regional governments moving further on such executive, such sanctions based regimes. And I could also assume that you might even see moves at the UN, specifically to try and create an international sanctions regime on specifically settler violence, which would mean they should the US even veto that during a Trump second term. When a Democrat comes back in the Overton frame has moved to such an extent that one would assume that this would be a snapback for any democratic administration. I can't over emphasize the watershed moment that it was President Biden, who created this executive order. Arguably the most Zionist president we've probably ever had in America, like in terms of like, and especially how he's even perceived in as well as the man who said don't the man who moved the aircraft carriers, the man who ensure that it's as time of need, he didn't need to be asked, but stood on his side and he's the one who creates To the sanctions regime, the the weight of that is significant.
Lior Amihai 55:06
Now to say one thing, President Biden still perceived in this way. And this in Israel, I think this was not perceived as something against Israel. This is such an ugly phenomenon that I think it is understood this is against very radical settlers. What is not understood in Israel is how this, you know, the, the the settlement, the settler balance is, you know, it implements or it's a larger policy, eventually the connections between separate groups, this is not understood. But I don't think this is perceived as President Biden against going against Israel, rather, going against very radical and extreme settlers. And I think this is definitely not put the president by this popularity in Israel. This is definitely dual so correctly, is being perceived. It's very popular, it's very liked, and is credited for for helping us on this very difficult time.
Madeleine Cereghino 56:05
Thank you. Okay, I have a few short questions that I just want to get through. All right, we're running out of time. One, I have a question in the chat. Does the US do this type of sanctions against Hamas? And is it working? There are a number of anti terror financing laws on the books and mechanisms already well established in the United States. However, after the seventh, there were four rounds of sanctions, I believe, against individual class members, in addition to the many, many layers that we have to ensure that US dollars, or American dollars are not funneled indirectly to us. But feel free to add, if anyone wants to add to that.
'll just say yes, there's dozens of sanctions individuals. And so I camasta can't just open a bank account in in the west and start accepting donations.
Madeleine Cereghino 56:58
Yeah, okay. I'm thinking of donations. I have a question from someone who wants to know if their donations could expose them to risk, but I think we could expand this out to other just like, General DAFs and other Jewish donors.
If you're donating to peace groups, between settlers and Palestinians, I think you'll find because these individuals would definitely not be participating. If you are nervous, just check that to make sure that the groups that you're donating to are doing beneficiary screening, and just to make sure that they're aware. But I mean, if you're on this webinar, unless you're not really aligned with Americans for Peace Now, the people that you're donating to the West Bank, I don't think are the target, though it should always be, know who you're benefiting type thing. And, as a donor, you should always have due diligence to make sure that what you're donating for if you're donating for a piece group in the West Bank, and somehow it landed in the sanctions individuals, you're probably fine. It's the group redistributed the money to the sanctioned individuals that isn't, but if you did know, what if you're creating a conspiracy that looked like a piece group, but it was going elsewhere, that's when you're in trouble.
Madeleine Cereghino 58:11
Thank you, speaking of conspiracies slash being shady and money. There's a question about whether or not money can be raised through a GoFundMe using a fictitious name, and then delivered to sanctioned person.
That would be a criminal offence of which I think it's-- I'm not a lawyer, there shouldn't be seen as legal advice as far as that-- but it's significant criminal time in jail plus significant, like 10s of millions of dollars of fights. It so if you are, it says exactly in the executive order if you are committing a conspiracy to overcome US sanctions, that is a significant federal crime. extremely serious. So if you are caught, good luck to you.
Madeleine Cereghino 58:54
Okay, a couple sorry, one more question that I promise we'll wrap up. I'm sorry, guys. Thank you for sticking with me here. Do we know if United States warned the Israeli government that these sanctions were coming?
Um, I don't know. I think the response of the Israeli government would indicate to me possibly not I will say this is one of the big advantages of having Ambassador Jack Lew on the ground as a former Treasury Secretary, and someone extremely familiar with how the sanctions regime works. And I'm sure he can educate and inform his various interlocutors about how serious this is. And and what this can mean as well as to the heads of the Israeli banking system and the central bank in itself. So we're we're blessed to have an ambassador who's so familiar and fluent in OFAC, haven't been a former Treasury Secretary himself.
Lior Amihai 59:44
I have to say that I don't know as well. Economic predictors. But I will say that the issue of surveillance and Joel also referred to this before has been raised in from between the US administration and Israel so many times before. This is not something knew that came out of the blue in that sense. And I think, you know, the way he's always been that led us to this point, unfortunately.
Madeleine Cereghino 1:00:10
So true. Okay, we are at time. If you don't mind, I'd love to ask just one final short question. And that is to sanctions ultimately be imposed on Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Technically, sure, practically. No. I, you know, I don't think we've sanctioned Vladimir Putin. If we haven't sanctioned Vladimir Putin, then we're not going to be sanctioning the Prime Minister of Israel, again, like the aim of this is corrective behavior, not punishment, sanctioning the head of, you know, the head of a government is not where you're going with this. That's not the purpose of this tool. Could I imagine, though, should, for example, Minister Ben Gvir order his forces not to impose regulation or an order in the West Bank? Like and they can tie into it? Could I imagine a world in which minister being very sanctioned? Yes. And that's a huge, you know, you don't have to go that's already a gigantic step. And the fact that it was reported that it was considered and then taken away, it's a very big, very big deal.
Lior Amihai 1:01:19
And now to say we'd refer it out as as well, I do think eventually, it's politics. I don't think we're very far from there. But, you know, between for individuals that none of us or most of us were not aware of their names prior to the sanctions. And until Prime Minister Netanyahu, there's so much in between, and I think the most significant ones, are settler groups. And there are so many settler groups that are and some of them are very significant with a lot of money and a lot of funding, that our building illegal construction and taking over our lands. I think that should be like, my call to the use administration is to look at these groups that are making the most impact on the ground and are changing or did risking our stability, and first and foremost, and others, but that specifically.
Madeleine Cereghino 1:02:11
Well, thank you both so much for the great conversation. I know we could be going much longer so I appreciate everyone sticking with us. I'm sorry if we couldn't get to your question. But I am so grateful for you all taking the time.
Produced by the Foundation for Middle East Peace. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
Yossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
Americans for Peace Now (APN) strongly condemns the recent demolitions in the Palestinian village of al
Walaja, near Jerusalem, where three homes were destroyed today, following the demolition of two homes last
The demolitions follow repeated failure by Israeli authorities to fulfill their responsibility to prepare a
master plan for al-Walaja, which would allow residents to legally live and build in their village. Additionally,
the government has refused to accept a master plan that the residents of Walaja paid for and prepared with a
professional planner. In fact, Israeli authorities seem committed to blocking growth at al-Walaja and demolishing
existing structures because of a planned road that will serve adjacent settlements.
2023 saw a significant surge in West Bank settler violence with the highest recorded number of incidents to date. President Biden's recently announced executive order is designed to address the escalating crisis. The first use of the executive order focused on Israeli settlers in the West Bank accused of perpetrating attacks against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists within the occupied territory. It did so by imposing financial sanctions and visa bans on four individuals. But is constructed in a way that it can have broader-reaching implications on the settlement enterprise.
This webinar features insights from Joel Braunold, Managing Director at S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace, and Lior Amichai, Executive Director of Peace Now. The speakers, in conversation with APN's Government Relations Director Madeleine Cereghino, delve into the intricacies of President Biden's executive order, assessing its potential impact on mitigating extremist settlers and potentially undercutting the settlement enterprise as a whole.