The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on four Israeli nationals on Monday who it said had carried out violent attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, following a US move slapping unprecedented financial and travel restrictions on Israelis active in settlements earlier this month.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the four targeted Israeli settlers, one of whom was also included in the US sanctions, were involved in “egregious abuses of human rights.”
“Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs,” he added. “This behavior is illegal and unacceptable.”
Yinon Levi, Moshe Sharvit, Zvi Bar Yosef and Ely Federman were identified by the UK government as “Israeli settlers who have violently attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.”
Of the four, only Levi was included in sanctions announced by the US.
In a statement, the UK said that Levi and Sharvit “have in recent months used physical aggression, threatened families at gunpoint, and destroyed property as part of a targeted and calculated effort to displace Palestinian communities.”
On October 17, Hebrew daily Haaretz reported an incident in which several dozen Palestinians had fled their home village of Ein Shabli in the Jordan Valley after Israeli settlers attacked members of their community and vandalized their homes. Sharvit was named by the Haaretz report as one of the key instigators of the attack.
Levi, too, was involved in similar incidents according to a statement by the US State Department earlier this month. The founder of the Meitarim Farm outpost in the southern West Bank, he was accused of assaulting Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, threatening them with additional violence if they did not leave their homes, burning their fields, and destroying their property, leading to a West Bank village being abandoned by its approximately 250 residents.
Federman, who also lives in the Meitarim Farm outpost, was accused of involvement “in multiple incidents against Palestinian shepherds” south of Hebron.
He is the son of Noam Federman, a prominent far-right activist from Hebron, who told The Times of Israel that his son was currently in combat operations in Khan Younis and is therefore unaware that he has been sanctioned by the UK. Ely was wounded several weeks ago when an RPG struck the D9 bulldozer he was operating, but he returned to combat duty after ten days recuperation in Sheba Hospital.
Federman denied that his son has been involved in attacks against Palestinians, stating that he has been performing his mandatory military service over the last three years.
“These allegations are a lot of nonsense. Tell me when he would have time to do such things. This is the result of a campaign of extreme leftist, anarchists, who harass the IDF in the Jordan Valley, Samaria, and the South Hebron Hills, and have turned to the US and Britain as part of this campaign,” Federman said Monday.
Bar Yosef was accused by the UK of threatening families on a picnic at gunpoint on two occasions, one of which the West Bank watchdog organization Kerem Navot documented in 2021.
Echoing the US, Cameron called for Israel to “take stronger action and put a stop to settler violence.”
“Too often, we see commitments made and undertakings given, but not followed through,” he said of Israel’s pledges to stopping settler violence across the West Bank.
“We should be clear about what is happening here. Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs,” said Cameron, who visited Israel earlier this month.
Britain’s Foreign Office said there had been unprecedented levels of violence by settlers in the West Bank over the past year.
At least 10 Palestinians were killed and dozens of homes were torched across the West Bank in settler attacks in 2023, human rights group Yesh Din said in January.
The violence spiked after the October 7 massacre carried out by Hamas in southern Israel, in which some 1,200 people were slaughtered and 253 were taken hostage, but violence had been on the rise before then, according to watchdogs.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on January 1 that there was a daily average of three settler-related incidents in the first eight months of 2023 compared to the two-per-day average in 2022 — the highest rate since the beginning of record-keeping in 2006.
It’s not known if any of the four targeted extremists named have assets in the UK, but the sanctions can nonetheless have wide-ranging impacts.
Following the US-issued sanctions, Levi’s Israeli bank accounts were frozen, as were those of sanctioned settler David Chai Chasdai, due to financial compliance requirements Israeli banks are legally committed to.
Israeli peace movement Combatants for Peace thanked the British government for backing “an unequivocal position against settler violence.”
“While their representatives sit in the government, the hilltop youth [a common term for extremist settler activists] have lost all restraint,” Combatants for Peace said. “It is a moral obligation to intervene. It’s good that such a necessary decision has been reached on the issue.”
Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report