US to Blacklist Israeli Military Unit Accused of Killing American Man

by | Apr 21, 2024

US to Blacklist Israeli Military Unit Accused of Killing American Man

by | Apr 21, 2024

war crimes

The State Department will place an ultra-Orthodox Israeli military unit on a blacklist preventing US weapons from reaching its soldiers. The sanctions, expected to be announced on Monday, have angered Tel Aviv. The move by Washington follows officials speaking with ProPublica about the White House failing to act even after the State Department determined Israel was in violation of US law. 

Axios was the first outlet to report the pending sanctions on Saturday. The US is expected to blacklist the Netzah Yehuda battalion of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The battalion of about 1,000 soldiers makes significant accommodations for ultra-Orthodox Jews who enlist in the IDF. 

The White House appears to have made the decision to sanction Netzah Yehuda after ProPublica reported that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was provided with a report that the Israeli military was committing war crimes in December but has failed to act. It is unclear if Netzah Yehuda was named in that report. 

Netzah Yehuda will be placed on a blacklist under the Leahy Laws. Named for former Senator Patrick Leahy, the laws bar US military assistance to foreign militaries that commit war crimes. The sanctions will prevent any US training or weapons from being given to the soldiers in Netzah Yehuda.

Officials speaking with ProPublica said the sanctions could be largely symbolic and easy for Israel to bypass. “Even if Blinken were to approve the sanctions, officials said, Israel could blunt their impact,” the outlet reports. “One approach would be for the country to buy American arms with its own funds and give them to the units that had been sanctioned.”

The US is Israel’s largest arms supplier and gives Tel Aviv $3.8 billion in military aid every year. The White House has remained steadfast in its “ironclad” commitment to provide the IDF with all the weapons it needs to conduct its brutal onslaught in Gaza. On Saturday, the House overwhelmingly voted for an additional $26 billion in military assistance for Tel Aviv. 

Soldiers in Netzah Yehuda are likely responsible for the death of Omar Assad, a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man. Assad was traveling in the West Bank in 2022 when IDF troops pulled him over, handcuffed him, and left him in a field lying face-down. When paramedics were finally allowed to reach Assad, he was already dead. Doctors determined he died as a result of a stress-induced heart attack. 

The sanctions were recommended to Blinken by the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum (ILVF). According to State Department officials and an investigative report by the Guardian, the ILVF set up “extraordinary policies” to “benefit” Israel. The ILVF process gives Tel Aviv unprecedented sway over any report the board issues. 

Still, Israeli officials were outraged over the impending sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, this is the “height of absurdity and a moral low point” at a time when Israeli soldiers “[are] fighting the terrorist monsters.” Member of the war cabinet Benny Gantz, who is portrayed as Netanyahu’s moderate opposition, stated, “I have great appreciation for our American friends, but the decision to impose sanctions on an IDF unit . . . sets a dangerous precedent.”

About Kyle Anzalone

Kyle Anzalone is news editor of the Libertarian Institute, opinion editor of and co-host of Conflicts of Interest with Will Porter and Connor Freeman.

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