Israel monitors US intel on settler attacks to thwart sanctions: report

Israel monitors US intel on settler attacks to thwart sanctions: report
Israel is trying to prevent US sanctions against Israeli settlers. To do so, it is allegedly spying on intelligence sent by the Palestinian Authority to the US.
3 min read
15 February, 2024
A man holds up an Israeli flag as Israeli right-wing protestors, including settlers, protest and try to block aid from entering Gaza at the Nitzana crossing on February 14, 2024 in Nitzana, Israel. [Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images]

Israel spied on communication channels between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the US to thwart attempts to sanction Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, according to reports.

Private channels between the US and the PA are allegedly being monitored by Israeli intelligence, insider sources told 972mag and Local Call, with the aim of preventing information passed on by the PA to the US from "developing into sanctions".

The news comes days after the US, UK and France moved to sanction Israeli settlers involved in crimes against Palestinians - a rare very move by Western allies against Israelis.

There has been a sharp increase in settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since the start of the Gaza war, allegedly with the acquiescence of the Israeli government.

Evidence passed on by the PA, which governs parts of the West Bank not under direct Israeli control, to the US allegedly played a decisive role in President Joe Biden’s decision to issue sanctions against four Israeli settlers earlier this month. This was mimicked on Monday by the UK while France sanctioned 28 individuals.

Two of the individuals sanctioned - Moshe Sharvit and Yinon Levy - had in recent months physically assaulted Palestinians, threatened families at gunpoint, and destroyed property. 

Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich responded by asking Israeli banks not to apply the US sanctions. 

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Israeli settler violence has long been prevalent in the West Bank.

Settlers have been filmed harassing Palestinian children, brutalising Palestinian civilians, uprooting farmers' olive groves, vandalising Palestinian homes and infrastructure. 

But this routine violence has intensified even further since the launch of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, which has empowered settlers.

The PA has provided the Office of U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC )with proof of hundreds of cases of settler violence since 7 October, including expulsions of Palestinian villages, arson, shootings that killed eight Palestinians and around 100 cases in which settlers opened live fire at Palestinians or their homes.

Israeli authorities, meanwhile, continue to turn a blind eye to settler crimes and use Israeli troops to protect their citizens instead of arresting them.

According to an investigation by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din, 97 percent of the 1,664 settler violence cases filed with Israeli police between 2005 and 2023 were closed without convicting any settler.

Now, Israel is worried Washington will directly sanction settlers.

"The Americans are demanding accountability from Israel, and the Israelis are finding themselves embarrassed," one source in the Israeli intelligence told 972mag.

"The fact that we are being asked to look for the materials indicates that Israel has no good answers."