American Sanctions on Israeli Citizens Are an Exercise in Moral Equivalence

On February 1, the White House issued an executive order placing sanctions on four Israelis living on the West Bank for allegedly attacking or mistreating Palestinians. While there have been instances of assaults on Palestinians by Jewish civilians, the sanctions are based on exaggerated and inaccurate reports of a wave of settler violence. Liat Collins describes the logic behind this move:

President Biden’s decision is not about combating violence. It’s an attempt at moral equivalence—and it carries its own dangers. The leader of the Democratic party, running for presidential reelection, fell into a trap set up by his party’s progressive wing and Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) supporters. The presidential order establishes a mechanism of financial sanctions against people (well, Jews) accused of “directing or participating in specific actions in the West Bank, which include threats of violence against civilians, intimidating civilians to cause them to leave their homes, destroying or seizing property, and engaging in terrorist activity.”

These are abhorrent acts indeed, but fortunately figures show that “settler violence” has decreased in recent months and is limited in scope and intensity. It is also condemned by Israeli public figures from the president, prime minister, and chief rabbi down.

According to a KAN public broadcaster report, [of the four targeted individuals] three have all faced proceedings in the Israeli justice system—a sign that the country takes the matter seriously even without U.S. presidential pushing. The U.S. could have—should have—informed the relevant Israeli authorities if it had specific information and concerns.

If the Biden administration’s goal is to appease the Jewish state’s leftwing opponents, the measure is unlikely to have the desired effect. As I noted in Friday’s newsletter, such opponents will not be swayed, which means the White House is only undermining itself in the eyes of those in the uncertain middle. The president’s intent may be to say, “We’re even handed; we punish extremists on both sides,” but by establishing this equivalence, it becomes less clear why the U.S. should be supporting Israel against the Palestinians in the first place. Washington is welcome to punish bad actors, but it would make its case more effectively by making it unequivocally.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, U.S.-Israel relationship, West Bank

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy