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Title: Blinken Is Sitting on Staff Recommendations to Sanction Israeli Military Units Linked to Killings or Rapes
Source: [None]
URL Source: https://www.propublica.org/article/ ... ctions-human-rights-violations
Published: Apr 20, 2024
Author: Horse
Post Date: 2024-04-20 06:51:57 by Horse
Keywords: None
Views: 54

by Brett Murphy April 17, 4:20 p.m. EDT

A special State Department panel recommended months ago that Secretary of State Antony Blinken disqualify multiple Israeli military and police units from receiving U.S. aid after reviewing allegations that they committed serious human rights abuses.

But Blinken has failed to act on the proposal in the face of growing international criticism of the Israeli military’s conduct in Gaza, according to current and former State Department officials.

The incidents under review mostly took place in the West Bank and occurred before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. They include reports of extrajudicial killings by the Israeli Border Police; an incident in which a battalion gagged, handcuffed and left an elderly Palestinian American man for dead; and an allegation that interrogators tortured and raped a teenager who had been accused of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Recommendations for action against Israeli units were sent to Blinken in December, according to one person familiar with the memo. “They’ve been sitting in his briefcase since then,” another official said.

A State Department spokesperson told ProPublica the agency takes its commitment to uphold U.S. human rights laws seriously. “This process is one that demands a careful and full review,” the spokesperson said, “and the department undergoes a fact-specific investigation applying the same standards and procedures regardless of the country in question.”

The revelations about Blinken’s failure to act on the recommendations come at a delicate moment in U.S.-Israel relations. Six months into its war against Hamas, whose militants massacred 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped 240 more on Oct. 7, the Israeli military has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to local authorities. Recently, President Joe Biden has signaled increased frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the widespread civilian casualties.

Multiple State Department officials who have worked on Israeli relations said that Blinken’s inaction has undermined Biden’s public criticism, sending a message to the Israelis that the administration was not willing to take serious steps.

The recommendations came from a special committee of State Department officials known as the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum. The panel, made up of Middle East and human rights experts, is named for former Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the chief author of 1997 laws that requires the U.S. to cut off assistance to any foreign military or law enforcement units — from battalions of soldiers to police stations — that are credibly accused of flagrant human rights violations.

The Guardian reported this year that the State Department was reviewing several of the incidents but had not imposed sanctions because the U.S. government treats Israel with unusual deference. Officials told ProPublica that the panel ultimately recommended that the secretary of state take action.

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