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Israeli Defense Chiefs Weary of Possible U.S. Sanctions on IDF Unit

The battalion was formed in 1999 and is operated conductive to the member’s religious convictions.
Members of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion. HILEL MEIR
Members of the Netzah Yehuda Battalion. HILEL MEIR

Israel announced Sunday that its defense minister spoke with the IDF chief of staff about the possibility that the Biden administration may place sanctions on one of the Jewish state’s military battalions.

According to reports, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant spoke with IDF Chief of Staff Gen. Herzi Halevi about rumors that the United States was looking to sanction the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, a unit previously active in the West Bank.

“Any attempt to vilify an entire unit casts a heavy shadow on the actions of the IDF to protect the citizens of Israel and thwart terror elements. Harm to one battalion is harm to the entire defense establishment, this is not the way to behave with partners and friends,” Gallant said in a statement on the matter.

The defense minister has reportedly discussed the issue with the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, and it is likely that the subject was addressed during a Sunday phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The meetings come as Axios reported that Blinken would enforce the Leahy Amendment on the unit for alleged “human rights violations.”

The 1997 law forbids financial and logistical assistance to foreign security, military, and police organizations that are found to be in non-compliance with U.S. humanitarian standards.

The infantry formation, attached to the Kfir brigade, is made up of primarily Haredi Jews and has in the past been accused of mistreating Palestinian detainees.

Israeli officials defended the service of the observant soldiers, describing in a statement that they are “now participating in the war in the Gaza Strip, with courage and professionalism, while adhering to the values and spirit of the IDF and the principles of international law,” and that “the IDF is working and will continue to work to investigate every unusual event in a focused manner and in accordance with the law.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strongly objected to the proposal, calling it “the height of absurdity and a moral low.”

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