How the Biden Administration Quietly Punishes Israel

By Shoshana Bryen, JEWISH POLICY CTR.                1 March 2024

Unable to persuade Israel to subordinate its national security policy to the dictates of the U.S. government and its allies in the European Union, Qatar and the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the Biden administration has initiated sanctions and pressures of varying sorts against Israel and Israeli entities. Each has the potential for escalation, and each should be seen as an opening gambit.

The most recent move is an American investigation of the Israeli company Finkelstein Metals, accusing it of receiving what the U.S. considers illegal subsidies from the Israeli government because it is in a government development zone. What is Finkelstein Metals, and why is it important?

It is, according to The Jerusalem Post, the only Israeli company that produces brass, bronze, and copper alloy products, and it is the sole supplier of metal bars for the producing ammunition for Iron Dome. Ron Tomer, president of the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, warned: “This is an unfounded lawsuit, which may lead to the closure of the factory. If this case is successful, it may harm other Israeli companies and is contrary to existing trade agreements.”

It is the potential for escalation that counts.

But this could also affect U.S. defense programming. “Existing trade agreements” cover a number of key Israeli systems in the U.S. military, including Trophy reactive armor, which protects American tanks for the Army and Marine Corps; and the Iron Fist protective system on Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Major Israeli subsectors for defense include parts for aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles, air-control technology, electronic components for land, air and sea platforms, airborne and ground-based engines, electromechanical devices, microwave components, and sensors.

Israeli capabilities crisscross the American defense sector to the benefit of both countries.

Consider another Biden administration move.

In the first week of February, President Biden issued financial and travel sanctions against four Israelis allegedly connected to violence against civilians in the West Bank. The sanctions froze their bank accounts, among other things — meaning that these four cannot pay their bills. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said an Israeli had allegedly led a group of people “engaged in actions creating an atmosphere of fear in the West Bank.”

That is, of course, possible, and Israel has a police and investigative force that acts against Israelis who violate the law. The warning here is that if Israel doesn’t cooperate, the next people won’t be anonymous residents of Judea and Samaria; they could be Israeli government officials. Journalist Amichai Stein posted recently, “The American administration is considering imposing another round of sanctions on Israelis … including [government national security minister Itamar] Ben Gvir or elements of [Mr. Ben-Gvir’s party] Otzma Yehudit.”

No suggestion here that the ”atmosphere of fear” might have been created by the deaths of 24 Israelis killed in 2023 by Palestinians from the West Bank — separate from the 1,200 killed by the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Not only have no individual Palestinians been sanctioned, but the Palestinian Authority and its policies of incitement and paying “salaries” to terrorists have not been criticized.

In fact, Mr. Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last month and “reiterated the United States’ support for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” according to the State Department readout.

One more.

Also in early February, the administration leaned on Israel to stop recruiting foreign workers to replace Palestinian labor from the Judea and Samaria Area and the Gaza Strip, saying recruitment could lead to exploitation of these workers.

According to The Jewish Press, the White House ambassador-at-large to monitor and combat trafficking in persons sent an official warning to the Justice Ministry and conducted a Zoom discussion with the head of the trafficking unit in Israel. After a two-hour meeting, the scheduled visit of Israeli representatives to Washington was canceled.

It should be noted here and elsewhere that Qatar — Iran’s ATM, Hamas’ hotelier and America’s preferred interlocutor — is well known for violating foreign workers’ rights. According to slavery monitor Walkfree, there were more than more than 200,000 people living in slavery in Qatar in 2023. For comparison purposes, the population of the U.S. is approximately 122 times that of Qatar. The slave equivalent would be about 2.4 million people.

When the World Cup facility in Qatar was being built, even Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch castigated Qatar for slavelike conditions foisted on foreign workers.

Qatar has received no warnings. The Biden administration rewarded Qatar for something in 2022 by making it a “major non-NATO ally.”

Each of these represents a nasty measure to remind Israel that Washington can make life difficult. The administration is demanding that Israel substitute an American vision of the Middle East for that of its elected government. It is a terrible policy to press on an ally living with vicious terror, rockets and irredentism on its borders.

March 3, 2024 | 4 Comments »

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  1. As the Russian Sanctions have shown any “sanctions and pressures” can backfire. Case in point BRICS trade. BRICS has a lot to gain if Israel joins BRICS. Israel needs to copy what Russia did against the US Sanctions especially with Banking before it is to late. To Paraphrase German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller. “First they came for the “Settlers”, Then they came for the “Rightist”, Then they came for You.”
    The Bank of Israel and the Banking regulators need to copy what the Russian Banking System did under sanctions and isolate the Israeli Banks from US Sanctions. Israel needs to require all Credit Card Processing be done in Israel; Israel needs to find an alternative to SWIFT, Israel need to get its Foreign Currency Reserve Exchange Account out of the U.S. The Bank of Israel and the Knesset need to change the regulations and the laws so that Banks cannot freeze Accounts because of US Sanctions. Israel needs to use a 3rd Country such as India to Process Dollar Transactions, Checks from the US.