Analyst: Biden, Blinken Endanger U.S. Soldiers with Sanctions on IDF Troops

President Joe Biden speaks about the evacuation of American citizens, their families, SIV
AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

The Biden administration’s reported decision to sanction a religious unit of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for alleged past human rights abuses will come back to haunt the U.S. as other countries do the same to American units.

That is the reason that the U.S. has refused to join the International Criminal Court, for instance, knowing that even though the U.S. military obeys international law, its enemies would abuse the court to prosecute American soldiers.

Richard Goldberg, who is a senior adviser at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and has served in the U.S. Navy Reserve as an intelligence officer, warned that the administration was putting U.S. troops at legal risk:

For years, Israeli soldiers and even elected officials have been aware of the danger that radical foreign prosecutors — usually in Europe — would try to charge them with war crimes, based on frivolous claims pushed by activist groups.

That is the reason that many IDF soldiers today will not appear on camera without masks. Many of the soldiers in the field today are reservists — men with careers and families who may travel for work or vacations. They do not want to be targeted for prosecution based on the fulminations of anti-Israel radicals. The Biden administration has now done to Israel what radical activists have tried to do in Europe — and which they will certainly do against the U.S. in future.

The unit that is to be sanctioned, the Netzach Yehuda (“Judea Forever”) unit, is composed of ultra-Orthodox Jews who are normally exempted from military service. It used to serve in the West Bank and is now in the Golan Heights.

In recent years — but prior to the October 7 terror attack by Hamas — Netzach Yehudah has been the subject of complaints by human rights groups over its responses to Palestinians in the West Bank, including the death of a Palestinian-American who was stopped at a checkpoint and died of a heart attack. As with all complaints, the IDF investigated these complaints, applied punishments where appropriate, and even relocated the unit to the Golan.

A hostile article by The Intercept in 2023 noted that it was “very easy to scapegoat” the unit because of its ultra-Orthodox composition, which presumably makes the unit less sympathetic to liberal critics, in Israel and the U.S.

However, once news of impending U.S. sanctions broke on Saturday, there was near-universal condemnation of Biden’s decision within Israel (more likely, that of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his anti-Israel department).

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the sanctions a “new moral low”; even opposition leader Yair Lapid, who is close to the Biden administration, called the sanctions a “mistake.” That’s because the consequences are clear.

First, no matter what might be wrong with the Netzach Yehudah unit, it is devastating to apply sanctions to an ally in the middle of a war — one in which that ally was attacked on multiple fronts and is fighting for its very existence.

The sanctions do not reflect conduct since October 7, but few critics will make that distinction. They will — correctly — see the sanctions as a criticism of Israel’s war against Hamas and other Iranian-backed terror groups (and Iran itself).

Second — and more personally for every Israeli — there is nothing to stop Israelis from being prosecuted now for their wartime service. Hundreds of thousands of reservists and volunteers who defended their country now feel at risk.

The sanctions being brought by Biden and Blinken are likely timed to appeal to wavering “progressive,” Arab-, and Muslim-American voters, as well as to disgruntled administration and Capitol Hill officials who dislike Israel.

They also reflect an animosity within the administration toward Netanyahu himself. Biden and Blinken have sent a signal for months that they would prefer Netanyahu be removed from office and will isolate Israel until he goes.

Ironically, the sanctions against Netzach Yehudah will undercut Israel’s opposition, which is pushing for ultra-Orthodox soldiers to be drafted. By targeting an ultra-Orthodox unit, the Biden administration is hurting that cause.

But the greatest long-term damage may be to the U.S. itself. Biden and Blinken have set a precedent for sanctioning soldiers from western militaries that pay scrupulous attention to the laws of war and have strong judicial processes.

Moreover, the Biden administration is signaling to the Middle East and the world that the U.S. is not a faithful ally and cannot be counted upon for support in a crisis. Both allies and enemies are taking note, and acting accordingly.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, “The Zionist Conspiracy (and how to join it),” now available on Audible. He is also the author of the e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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