Punitive Israeli Sanctions Against Palestinians Are Dangerous and Wrong; US Should Oppose Them

January 6, 2023

J Street is deeply concerned by the Netanyahu government’s imposition of harshly punitive sanctions against Palestinians and their leadership, in response to the Palestinian Authority’s formal request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The Israeli government has responded to an act of nonviolent opposition to occupation with an illegitimate crackdown on dissent. By weakening the only Palestinian leaders who are publicly committed to a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, they are further destabilizing the West Bank, empowering extremists and endangering Israelis.

Among the sanctions and responses announced by the government are its intention to reroute millions of dollars of Palestinian taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA; refusal to allow any new construction by Palestinians in Area C of the occupied West Bank; sanctions against leading PA officials; and pursuit of punitive action against human rights organizations operating in the occupied territory. These measures represent a dramatic and deliberate overreaction that will further harm the Palestinian people and marginalize moderate Palestinian leaders who favor a two-state solution – at the expense of Israel’s own security interests and with blatant disregard for its legal and moral responsibilities.

Just like Israel, the United States and any other nation, the Palestinians have every right to participate in international fora, including the ICJ, and to seek nonviolent legal and diplomatic redress. While it’s reasonable to disagree over the productivity of these efforts, it’s wrong to treat them as akin to an act of violence – and sadly ironic to respond to the Palestinian appeal to an international court by committing fresh violations of international law.

The Israeli government has no right to confiscate and redistribute Palestinian tax funds that it collects on behalf of the PA. The refusal to allow any Palestinian construction in Area C of the occupied West Bank (formalizing an already longstanding practice by occupation authorities) is an illegal act of collective punishment, designed to further advance this far-right coalition’s agenda of de facto annexation and displacement.

Just as the Biden Administration commendably spoke out this week to oppose the “legalization” of West Bank settlement outposts, they should oppose these destructive new punitive measures by the Netanyahu government. While the US can certainly disagree with the Palestinian decision to pursue an ICJ opinion, our government should respect the Palestinian right to do so.

At a time when the Israeli government is expressly opposed to the two-state solution and to any meaningful negotiations with the PA, it’s wrong to deny the Palestinians nonviolent avenues to advocate for their rights and aspirations. Granting the far-right Netanyahu government blanket impunity from criticism or action by international bodies is a recipe for disaster, not only for Palestinian rights but for Israel’s own security and future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.