US Won’t Sanction Israeli Military Units That Committed ‘Gross Human Rights Violations’

Last week, Axios reported the US would blacklist an Israeli military battalion drawing severe criticisms from top officials in Tel Aviv

Secretary of State Antony Blinken sent a letter to House Speaker Rep. Mike Johnson explaining that three Israeli military units found to have committed “gross human rights violations” will not be prevented from obtaining US weapons. Last week, Axios reported that the State Department had elected to blacklist a single Israeli military battalion that was responsible for killing an elderly Palestinian-American man.

ABC News says it obtained the letter from Blinken to Johnson that concluded three Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and two civilian units had engaged in behavior that violated the Leahy Laws. The laws, named after former Senator Patrick Leahy, prevent US military aid from going to military brigades that commit human rights abuses.

Blinken claimed that Tel Aviv had taken steps towards accountability and clarified the finding that five Israeli units committed “gross human rights violations” would have no impact on US aid to Israel.

“The Israeli government has presented new information regarding the status of the unit and we will engage on identifying a path to effective remediation for this unit,” Blinken wrote. “But this will have no impact on our support for Israel’s ability to defend itself against Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah, or other threats.”

The letter says four of the five units have taken measures to remedy the abuses, but none of the battalions will be sanctioned. All the human rights violations occurred before October 7.

For decades, Tel Aviv has remained one of the top recipients of Washington’s military aid. At the same time, various human rights organizations have said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank amounts to an apartheid system.

Tel Aviv has been able to receive military assistance and commit gross human rights abuses, in part because Israel is granted special privileges when it comes to the enforcement of the Leahy Laws.

According to State Department officials and an investigative report by the Guardian, the Israel Leahy Vetting Forum (ILVF) set up “extraordinary policies” to “benefit” Israel. The ILVF process gives Tel Aviv unprecedented sway over any report the board issues.

Still, in December, the ILVF recommended that Blinken blacklist at least one Israeli military unit, Netzah Yehuda. The battalion is composed of ultra-Orthodox Jews who enlist in the IDF and receive significant religious accommodations. Netzah Yehuda killed a 78-year-old Palestinian-American man in 2022. The State Department also obtained a TikTok video showing the unit abusing Palestinians in the West Bank that same year.

Blinken did not act on the ILVF report until its existence was leaked to ProPublica earlier this month. The ProPublica article pushed journalists to question the State Department about the report. Last week, Axios reported that the White House was planning to sanction Netzah Yehuda on Monday.

After the Axios article, Israeli officials expressed outrage over the impending sanctions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this is the “height of absurdity and a moral low point” at a time when Israeli soldiers “[are] fighting the terrorist monsters.” War cabinet member Benny Gantz, who is portrayed as Netanyahu’s moderate opposition, stated, “I have great appreciation for our American friends, but the decision to impose sanctions on an IDF unit. . .  sets a dangerous precedent.”

According to an Axios report published on Friday, the plans for sanctions on Netzah Yehuda were put on hold after several conversations between top officials in Washington and Tel Aviv. The Israeli officials argued that sanctions against Netzah Yehuda could open soldiers to prosecution at the World Court.

Kyle Anzalone is the opinion editor of, news editor of the Libertarian Institute, and co-host of Conflicts of Interest.