Mitchell Bard

Biden Executive Order Should Sanction Palestinians

President Biden should be thanked for his executive order to sanction four settlers because, in doing so, he essentially undercut its premise, that there are “particular high levels of extremist settler violence.” He has recognized that only .001% of the 500,000 Jews living in the West Bank are engaged in such violence. This gives a better indication than media reports of the true extent of the problem. More names may be added, but it will still represent an infinitesimal fraction of the people his administration has demonized.

More importantly, the order requires the administration to sanction thousands of Palestinians, starting with the Palestinian Authority, which it wants to reward with statehood and put in charge of Gaza.

The order is titled “Executive Order on Imposing Certain Sanctions on Persons Undermining Peace, Security, and Stability in the West Bank.” The text says it applies to “any foreign person,” not only Jews, “that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank” by “an act of violence or threat of violence targeting civilians” and applies to “a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any of the activities.”

If the president applies these criteria to all the parties in the West Bank, he’s got a lot of sanctioning to do, considering that the IDF reported there were 25,257 Palestinian attacks against Jewish settlers between 2019 and 2022. Many reports with exaggerated figures have been published in recent months to gin up criticism of settlers, but the reality remains that the overwhelming majority of extremist violence is perpetrated against Jews not Palestinians.

If the administration is serious, the following must be sanctioned:

  • The Palestinian Authority, which is a “government entity” that threatens peace and stability by incitement to violence, glorifying murderers, and adopting an educational curriculum that encourages antisemitism and a rejection of coexistence.
  • Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the officials responsible for incentivizing violence against Jews by paying murderers and the families of suicide bombers through “pay-to-slay” subsidies.
  • Official Palestinian media outlets, which are filled with incitement against Jews and Israel.
  • Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad are already on the U.S. designated terrorist list, so all of their members qualify, as do others on the list, including the Palestine Liberation Front — Abu Abbas Faction, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and those that should be on the list such as The Lion’s Den, Tanzim, Popular Resistance Committees, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
  • The PLO, which remains committed to the phased strategy for the “complete liberation of Palestine,” as reflected in all the P.A. maps.
  • Fatah, which released a video showing members of its Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades participating and bragging about their role in the October 7 massacre.
  • Palestinian security forces involved in the murder and torture of Palestinians. While most of the violence of Palestinians in the West Bank is directed at settlers and Jews inside the Green Line, the P.A. also brutalizes its people.
  • UNRWA, which runs 19 refugee camps in the West Bank. While we don’t yet know how many staff members of UNRWA in the West Bank are members of Hamas, it would be surprising if many were not affiliated with it and the other terror groups. Staffing aside, we know that UNRWA uses the same textbooks full of hatred and incitement against Israel and Jews in the West Bank that it disseminates in Gaza.

The Biden administration refuses to acknowledge that the handful of extremist settlers are not the obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The president should know better. He is surely aware that the Palestinians have rejected statehood offers going back to 1937 and as recently as 2008. Biden knows that Abbas has refused to negotiate with any Israeli prime minister in the last 15 years, which includes Biden’s time as vice president and the three years of his presidency. He also must understand why Benjamin Netanyahu came to power and the entire Israeli electorate shifted to the right after the “land for peace” myth collapsed with Hamas terror following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza.

The president’s executive order could contribute to peace only if enforced fairly. If the administration only sanctions Jews, it will be guilty of antisemitism. How hypocritical would that be considering the administration’s proclaimed commitment to fighting antisemitism?

About the Author
Dr Mitchell Bard is the Executive Director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) and a foreign policy analyst who lectures frequently on U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Bard is the director of the Jewish Virtual Library, the world's most comprehensive online encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture. He is also the author/editor of 24 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and the novel After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.
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