Biden’s Executive Order Sanctioning Violence in the West Bank, and What Media Has to Say About It

The morning of Thursday, February 1, President Biden signed an executive order to impose sanctions against Israelis who have been attacking Palestinians in the West Bank. In addition to the financial penalties, the order bans U.S. travel visas for the four individuals. Biden highlighted “broader regional destabilization across the Middle East” in the grounds for sanctions. POLITICO, who broke the story just hours before the executive order was formally announced, notes the timing with Biden’s trip to Michigan, “a battleground state this election year that is home to many Arab Americans furious with his approach to the Israel-Hamas war.” (Toosi, Ward Feb. 1, 2024)

What does the ecosystem think? In the first 24 hours after the story broke, sentiment of the articles was overwhelmingly negative, with 433 negative, 140 neutral, and 1 positive stories published. Politico’s original story was written neutrally (93% confidence according to a model trained by pysentimiento). Most of these stories describe the violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, including torching of cars, attacks of Bedouin communities, and forced evacuations. According to the Washington Post, “Thursday’s executive order marks the first significant action he has been willing to take against Israelis in the nearly four-month-old war.” (Abutaleb, DeYoung Feb. 1, 2024)

Who is covering the story? The Guardian has led major news outlets with 12 stories since the announcement. POLITICO has published four follow-ups to its original breaking article. CNN and BBC are the largest outlets actively covering the story, with ~750 and ~625 million unique monthly visitors, respectively.

*Average UVM / Reach: average number of unique visitors to a domain in a month

Is this news trustworthy? According to NewsGuard, at least 51 percent of the domains covering this story are credible. 46 percent of domains are not covered by NewsGuard. Only three percent are categorized as Proceed with Caution or Proceed with Maximum Caution. These sources to be cognizant of include:


*Saudi Royal Family Owned, ^Russian State Owned, ~Chinese State Owned

Where are the through lines? The most commonly referenced topics in the articles and social posts since the EO include Sanctions (110), Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (53), and Politics (50). From a trustworthiness perspective, all of the topics had relatively high average scores according to NewsGuard, which categorizes sites as Generally Credible if they score 75/100 or higher. The only topic with domains averaging scores below 75 was Netanyahu, and just barely. Of those domains, and had the highest and lowest scores, at 87.5/100 and 57/100, respectively.

Topic data generated by PeakMetrics and supplemented with

What is the breakdown between news and social media? Sanctions, is the topic most dominated by mainstream media outlets, with nearly all of the 110 mentions as articles rather than posts on Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, or other social platforms. By contrast, social users focused more on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Attacking, Peace, Activists. Politics has been discussed across both arenas.

Diverging Takes From the Largest Audience Outlets: Global news outlets evolved from reporting the facts of the EO on Feb. 1 to covering the politics and repercussions:

  • Times of India: Israel PM Netanyahu slams US President Biden's condemnation of Israeli settlers (Feb. 3, 2024)
    • The Times of India reported that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rebuked the order, “The overwhelming majority of residents in Judea and Samaria are law-abiding citizens, many of whom are currently fighting - as conscripts and reservists - to defend Israel.”
  • Fox News: Biden ignores Palestinian terror on West Bank as administration sanctions four Israelis: 'Pure politics' (Feb. 4, 2024)
    • Fox News guest David Friedman, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, called the order a “political move” and pivoted to stoking immigration fears, a mainstay of conservative media in an election year. “While I have no tolerance for violence, Biden’s selection of four Israeli Jews for sanctions, especially when Palestinian violence is far more prevalent and lethal, is just pure politics… Meanwhile, Biden is permitting hundreds of people on the Terror Watch List to enter the USA illegally…”
  • POLITICO: Biden imposes sanctions on violent West Bank settlers in reprimand to Israel (Feb. 5, 2024)
    • POLITICO reports that the White House’s approach to the war in Gaza has shifted over the preceding weeks and months, from staunchly backing Israel to pushing for more humanitarian aid and a cease fire. “In recent weeks, as Netanyahu’s government has stiff-armed American attempts to wind down the war and the U.S. develops “day after” scenarios, Washington has shifted its approach to weigh Palestinian concerns more.”
  • ABC News: US sanctions on Israeli settlers have sparked accusations of anti-Semitism — and cracked open a long-running international debate (Feb. 5, 2024)
    • ABC reported on an accusations of anti-semitism by Bezalel Smotrich, Israel’s Finance Minister, “So strong is the pushback to any criticism of settlers that Israel's influential finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, this week accused US President Joe Biden of engaging in an ‘anti-Semitic lie’.”


Where is the story headed? The implications of the sanctions on the broader Israeli-Palestinian Conflict accelerated in the week following, with 18 stories published on the following Monday and Tuesday. Sanctions and Crisis continue to be core topics of discussion. On the other end of the spectrum, Politics, Religion, and Financial Targets have decelerated.

Coverage of the executive order and the war in Gaza continue to evolve. Coverage of the EO on the day it was issued focused primarily on the contents of the order and who the four individually sanctioned settlers were. Since then, discussion has expanded to the implications for the U.S. presidential election, the relationship between Biden and Netanyahu, and whether the order will help to reduce violence in the West Bank. To track this story and to explore the data yourself, reach out to PeakMetrics. Subscribe to this newsletter to stay on top of the latest stories shaping your information ecosystem.

Today’s PeakMetrics Deep Dive was written and edited by Dave Russell, Michal Nowicki, and Nick Loui.


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