The Israel-Hamas war is essentially a great-power conflict that pits two coalitions against each other like Ukraine war
Israeli soldiers and armoured vehicles in Gaza City, November 1, 2023 (Photo: Getty Images)
When on October 7 more than 1,000 Hamas militants entered Israel and carried out terrorist atrocities against largely civilians and took more than 200 hostages back to the Gaza Strip, they not only exposed perhaps the worst security and intelligence failure in the country’s 75-year history but also set in motion developments beyond their own control.
In stark contrast to the restraint India exercised in response to the 2008 horrific Mumbai terrorist attacks that were devised by the Pakistani military intelligence, Israel has treated the Hamas slaughter as a kind of Pearl Harbor moment. While India under then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh chose to impose no costs on Pakistan, thereby emboldening the Pakistani military establishment to stage further major cross-border terrorist attacks, Israel wasted no time in planning and launching a massive military operation to “wipe out” Hamas and thereby help deter others in the neighbourhood from launching daring terror strikes against Israeli targets.
Today, as Israel pummels Gaza, its military offensive is deepening a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip while raising the prospects of a geopolitical reordering in the Middle East. Yet, despite satellite imagery indicating that a quarter of all buildings in northern Gaza have already been wrecked by Israeli strikes, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected global appeals for a ceasefire, including from allies like France and Australia, describing them as calls for Israel to “surrender to terrorism”.
Israel has gone to war with Hamas several times before, including in 2009, 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2021. The scale of the present war is unprecedented, as underlined by Israel’s mobilisation of 360,000 reservists and the evacuation of 250,000 Israelis from their homes. With Israeli airstrikes flattening entire neighbourhoods in Gaza and killing thousands, the global horror at the barbarism of Hamas’ actions against children, women and the elderly is in danger of giving way to international revulsion over the growing human toll of the Israeli bombing campaign, which has become one of the most intense of the 21st century.
Hamas, though, has long used human shields in conflicts with Israel, and its armed militants remain embedded among Gazan civilians.
More ominously, with the Israeli military currently engaged in low-level fighting on three additional fronts—Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank—the risks of a widening war cannot be discounted. It is to avert a wider conflict that US President Joe Biden has deployed additional American naval and air assets in the Middle East. A wider war would undermine US interests, including by increasing the strategic space for China and Russia.
Biden’s new military deployments in the Middle East are in keeping with the interventionist foreign policy that he has pursued since taking office. Biden’s first military action (in Syria) came barely five weeks after he entered the White House.
Most members of Biden’s national security team are considered “liberal interventionists”, or hawks on the left who cheered America’s past wars and who have helped deepen US involvement in the current war in Ukraine. It was the liberal interventionists who, under President Barack Obama, engineered the disastrous US-led interventions in Libya and Syria. Today, the ruling alliance of liberal interventionists and neoconservatives (neocons) in Washington is pushing Russia into an alliance with China.
It did not take long for the neocons and liberal interventionists in Washington to define the Hamas atrocities against Israel as an attack on American interests and call for a larger war to take on Iran. On Biden’s orders, the US military on October 26 carried out strikes on purported “Iranian proxies” in Syria. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin described them as “precision self-defence strikes” against two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its affiliates.
Biden’s new military deployments in the Middle East are in keeping with the interventionist foreign policy that he has pursued since taking office. It did not take long for the neocons and liberal interventionists in Washington to define the Hamas atrocities against Israel as an attack on American interests and call for a larger war to take on Iran
Meanwhile, unlike many wartime leaders, the increasingly unpopular Netanyahu is struggling to rally Israelis to his side, given the scant public trust in his leadership. Netanyahu’s effort to pin the blame for the Hamas surprise attack on the heads of Israeli military intelligence and Shin Bet, the domestic intelligence service, triggered a political backlash, forcing him to delete his post on X. “Under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of war intentions on the part of Hamas”, his post had read. “On the contrary, the assessment of the entire security echelon, including the head of military intelligence and the head of Shin Bet, was that Hamas was deterred and was seeking an arrangement”.
To be sure, the Hamas attack took even the US by surprise. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, in an essay published in the Foreign Affairs journal just before the October 7 attack, boasted that “we have de-escalated crises in Gaza and restored direct diplomacy between the parties after years of its absence”. After the Hamas atrocities, the journal allowed Sullivan to remove such lines from the online version of the essay.
Whatever the outcome of the Gaza war, the political career of Netanyahu, who has been in power for 14 of the past 16 years, seems doomed. Biden’s re-election prospects also have dimmed.
Biden’s approval rating, even before the conflict flared in the Middle East, had sunk to the lowest level since he took office. But Biden’s “unwavering support” for Netanyahu’s Gaza war has split the Democratic Party at home, antagonised America’s allies and partners in the Islamic world and, by alienating many young Americans and progressives, seriously set back his re-election chances. If he faces voters with the US still involved in two separate wars, he would likely lose.
THE ROOTS OF THE CONFLICT
Almost everything about the Israel-Palestine conflict is contentious, including its roots. Some experts trace the origins of the conflict to Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration during World War I in support of the establishment of “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine, then an Ottoman region with a minority Jewish population. Named after the then British foreign secretary, the declaration fostered Jewish-Palestinian enmity. Other experts, however, trace the roots of the conflict to the late 19th century, when the rise of Zionism encouraged Jewish migration to the Holy Land.
The Israel-Palestine problem, like continuing conflicts elsewhere, including in the Indian subcontinent and Africa, is the direct legacy of British colonialism. The “divide and rule” policies of the world’s biggest colonial power, Britain, extended even to its exit strategy. For example, Britain ensured that not only would a united, strong India not be possible but also that an independent India would be perpetually weighed down by serious challenges.
Hundreds of millions in the world still suffer from the lingering consequences of British colonialism. As then-South African President Thabo Mbeki put it in 2005, colonialism left a “common and terrible legacy of countries deeply divided on the basis of race, colour, culture and religion.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron acknowledged in 2011 that the legacy of British colonialism was responsible for many of the world’s enduring problems. “As with so many of the problems of the world, we are responsible for their creation in the first place,” Cameron said in Pakistan, a British-created state that still defines itself by what it is against—India—rather than by what it is for.
There may be no direct link between the two raging wars, yet each could impinge on the other. After the start of hostilities in the Middle East, ‘Ukraine fatigue’ in the West has become more apparent. Just as the Ukraine war led to soaring international food and fuel prices and hyper-inflation, the Gaza war, if it widens, could disrupt oil supplies
British colonialists liked redrawing political frontiers, as they did in the Middle East after World War I. Indeed, it was British colonialism that laid the foundation of the State of Israel in the period between December 1917 (when the British army occupied Jerusalem) and May 14, 1948, the date on which David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the birth of Israel with US support. In that period, while mollifying Palestinian élites by offering the prospect of an independent Palestine, Britain quietly encouraged Jewish migration to Palestine and subsidised Jewish settlements and defences against native Palestinians.
Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, Israelis and Palestinians have been at war. Israel’s creation sparked the first Israeli-Arab War, which ended in 1949 with 750,000 Palestinians displaced and the sub-region divided into three entities: the State of Israel, the West Bank (of the Jordan River), and the Gaza Strip.
The biggest turning point came in June 1967 when Israel pre-emptively attacked Egypt and Syria and dramatically changed the political and water map of its sub-region. In just a six-day war, Israeli forces captured vast swaths of territory, seizing the Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip from Egypt; the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan; and the Golan Heights from Syria. As a result, Israel more than tripled the size of the area under its control—from 21,000 square kilometres to 67,000 square kilometres.
The Six-Day War, as it is known, still stands out for the successful Israeli grab of the sub-region’s water resources. By seizing control of the water-rich Golan Heights and the aquifer-controlling West Bank, Israel reaped tremendous water spoils: the war left it in control of sizeable groundwater resources and all of the Jordan River’s headwaters.
The clash of the two coalitions increases the significance of the Global South as a ‘swing’ factor in geopolitics. The weight of the Global South is growing while the power of the West is weakening. The Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region is a key front in the struggle between the two coalitions for influence in the Global South
Groundwater is a larger source of supply than surface water in this sub-region. And the West Bank sits on substantial groundwater in the form of a multi-aquifer system, with the groundwater outflow to Israel estimated at a sizeable 325 million cubic metres a year. In 1981, Israel formally annexed the strategic Golan Heights, which not only serves as the headwaters of the Jordan River but also controls Israel’s major water sources, including those that feed its main freshwater lake, Tiberias (also known as Lake Kinneret, or the Sea of Galilee).
Simply put, Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation since 1967, with Israel usurping Palestinian natural resources and tightly regulating any expansion of the water infrastructure in Palestinian areas.
Israel has made peace with some of its Arab neighbours, including Egypt, with which it signed the 1978-79 Camp David Accords and returned the Sinai Peninsula. Israel also signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994 but without returning the West Bank and East Jerusalem. After Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain agreed in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords to become the third and fourth Arab countries to normalise relations with Israel.
Israel’s conflict with Palestinians, however, has persisted, despite the 1993 Oslo I Accords and the 1995 Oslo II Accords. The Fatah party led by Mahmoud Abbas controls the Palestinian Authority from the West Bank, while Hamas, until Israel recently declared war on it, was de facto governing the Gaza Strip after winning parliamentary elections in 2006.
Over the years, Palestinian frustration and anger have triggered a recurring cycle of violent protests and Israeli crackdown. In 1987, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip rose up against the Israeli occupation in what is known as the first Intifada, which lasted until 1993. Then in 2000, after then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa mosque—the third holiest site in Islam—the second Intifada began, lasting until 2005. During the height of that uprising in 2002, Israel began constructing a concrete, 712-kilometre barrier wall around the West Bank that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled in 2004 was violative of international law. Israel, however, ignored the ICJ’s call for dismantling the wall.
More fundamentally, Israel has gradually consolidated its regional pre-eminence, with the outcome of past wars precluding any real challenger. Its peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt have helped reinforce the message to others in the Arab world that it is too powerful to be taken on militarily, thus leaving only diplomatic options. Before the latest war began, even Saudi Arabia was discussing with the US a deal that would normalise its relations with Israel.
Today, Israel, despite a small population of 9.4 million, surpasses the combined military strength of its Arab neighbours—Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It has one of the world’s most powerful militaries, with vast air power. And Israel enjoys a nuclear-weapons monopoly in the Middle East that only Iran is seeking to clandestinely challenge. Another key fact is that Israel’s $564 billion economy is larger than that of all of its immediate neighbours combined.
Hamas emerged out of an Israeli-financed Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip. Arafat called Hamas ‘a creature of Israel’. Israel, like the US, may have been guided by the proverb ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’. This is not an Arab but a Sanskrit proverb. But, as history attests, ‘the enemy of my enemy’, far from being a friend, has often openly turned into a foe sooner or later
HOW THE CHICKENS CAME HOME TO ROOST
The outrage over the atrocities against Israeli civilians by Hamas has helped obscure Israel’s role in the rise of that terrorist militia. In the 1980s when the CIA trained and armed “mujahideen” (or Islamic holy warriors) in Pakistan from multiple countries to wage jihad against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, thereby spawning Al Qaeda and international terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Israel aided the rise of the Islamist Hamas as a rival to the secular Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah.
The first Intifada that flared in 1987 as a spontaneous protest movement against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands shook Israel. To divide and undermine the nationalist Palestinian movement led by Arafat, Israel lent support to the anti-PLO Hamas that was formed under the leadership of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, a quadriplegic and partially blind cleric, in the early days of the Intifada uprising.
The fundamental Israeli objective was to thwart the implementation of a two-state solution centred on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. By aiding the rise of a terrorist group whose charter rejected recognising the Israeli state, Israel sought to undermine the idea of a two-state solution, including curbing Western support for a Palestinian homeland.
In fact, Hamas emerged out of an Israeli-financed Islamist movement in the Gaza Strip. Brigadier General Yitzhak Segev disclosed that, as Israel’s military governor in Gaza during 1981-86, he routed Israeli government funds to the Palestinian Islamist movement as a “counterweight” to the dominant Palestinian secularists.
US Ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer said in late 2001 that, “Israel perceived it to be better to have people [Palestinians] turning toward religion rather than toward a nationalistic cause,” resulting in the growth of the Islamist movement in the Palestinian territories “with the tacit support of Israel”. And a former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, said, “Israel started Hamas,” adding, “It was a project of Shin Bet [the Israeli domestic intelligence agency], which had a feeling that they could use it to hem in the PLO”.
Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel, Israelis and Palestinians have been at war. Israel’s creation sparked the first Israeli-Arab War, which ended in 1949 with 750,000 Palestinians displaced and the sub-region divided into three entities: the State of Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
Arafat, for his part, called Hamas “a creature of Israel”, telling the Italian newspaper L’Espresso in late 2001 that “Hamas was constituted with the support of Israel. The aim was to create an organization antagonistic to the PLO. They received financing and training from Israel”. A former Israeli religious affairs official who was involved in Gaza for more than two decades, Avner Cohen, echoed Arafat’s words in 2009, saying, “Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel’s creation”.
The spy agency, Mossad, was also involved in Israel’s divide-and-rule game in the occupied territories. In a 1994 book, The Other Side of Deception, Mossad whistleblower Victor Ostrovsky explained the rationale for aiding Hamas: “Supporting the radical elements of Muslim fundamentalism sat well with the Mossad’s general plan for the region. An Arab world run by fundamentalists would not be a party to any negotiations with the West, thus leaving Israel again as the only democratic, rational country in the region”.
About seven years before the killing of bin Laden by US special forces in a helicopter assault on his hideout near Islamabad, Israel assassinated Hamas founder Yassin by a missile strike in 2004. But by then Hamas had emerged as a major terrorist menace after becoming the first Islamic group to embrace the use of suicide bombers.
The plain fact is that Israel’s tacit ties with Islamists paralleled America’s use of jihadists against communism and Soviet influence. As then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted in 2010, “We trained them, we equipped them, we funded them, including somebody named Osama bin Laden… And it didn’t work out so well for us”.
America’s troubling ties with Islamist rulers and groups were cemented when President Ronald Reagan’s administration employed Islam as an ideological tool to spur jihad against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. In 1985, at a White House ceremony attended by several mujahideen from Afghanistan, Reagan gestured toward his guests and declared, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalent of America’s Founding Fathers.”
The Six-Day War still stands out for the successful Israeli grab of the sub-region’s water resources. By seizing control of the water-rich Golan Heights and the aquifer-controlling West Bank, Israel reaped tremendous water spoils. Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation since 1967
Israel, like the US, may have been guided by the proverb “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”. This is not an Arab but a Sanskrit proverb that gained currency some 1,000 years before Prophet Muhammad. But, as history attests, “the enemy of my enemy”, far from being a friend, has often openly turned into a foe sooner or later.
Yet, Israel and the US have both declined to draw appropriate lessons from the Western roots of international jihadist terrorism. While Obama was in office, the US and its allies toppled Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, effectively creating a jihadist citadel at Europe’s southern doorstep. They then moved to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, fuelling a civil war that enabled the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS), many of whose foot soldiers were CIA-trained, anti-Assad jihadists.
Israel likewise persisted with its dalliance with Hamas even after the 1993 Oslo Accords and its military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. In fact, Qatar, a long-time sponsor of violent jihadists, funnelled some $1.8 billion to Hamas between 2012 and 2023 with the consent of Israel, which naïvely believed that such regular flow of funding would discourage Hamas from challenging the status quo.
Former US President Jimmy Carter told an interviewer in 2013 that he met Hamas leaders several times and they appeared willing to accept the existence of Israel but that Netanyahu’s determination to impose a “one-state solution” precluded any meaningful negotiations.
Netanyahu, for his part, reportedly told a meeting of his Likud party’s Knesset members in 2019 that “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” adding, “This is part of our strategy—to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank”.
The Hamas surprise attack on Israel holds lessons for other countries on the frontlines against international terrorism, including India. The first lesson is to never rest on one’s oars as terrorists will innovate by crafting new means for launching surprise attacks. Another lesson is to impose sustained costs on state sponsors of terror. Israel, unfortunately, allowed Qatar to keep funding Hamas
By doing whatever it could to undermine the Palestinian Authority, Israel continued to empower Hamas until the chickens came home to roost recently.
Israel’s current military operations cannot crush Palestinians’ aspirations for statehood or destroy Hamas’ terrorism-glorifying ideology. Hamas’ capability, however, can be sufficiently degraded in the current war so that it no longer poses a potent threat to Israel.
A GEOPOLITICAL REORDERING?
The present confluence of international crises, conflicts and wars poses a growing global danger and highlights geopolitical churning at a time when the world is at a crossroads, with the United Nations (UN) in irreversible decline. The war in Gaza, like the war in Ukraine, is making the world more divided, including accentuating the North-South and East-West divides.
This trend portends greater international divisiveness in the coming years. The hardening gridlock at the UN Security Council, ironically, may increase the role of the traditionally weak UN General Assembly, which on October 27 adopted a resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” and an end to Israel’s Gaza siege, which has largely prevented food, medicine, fuel and other essential goods from entering that enclave. While the US and Israel voted against it, the resolution was adopted with the support of 120 countries, including some of Israel’s Western allies like France and Spain.
In modern history, wars, not peace, have shaped the international order and international institutions. The present US-led global order, including the monetary order as symbolised by the Bretton Woods institutions, emerged from World War II. And so did the UN. This explains why meaningfully reforming the UN in peacetime has proved virtually impossible.
The present wars in the Middle East and Europe could lead to major shifts in the international order, especially if Israel’s war drags on or triggers a wider conflict.
There may be no direct link between the two raging wars, yet each could impinge on the other. For example, after the start of hostilities in the Middle East, ‘Ukraine fatigue’ in the West has become more apparent, signalling that Western support for Kyiv seems set to erode. Just as the Ukraine war led to soaring international food and fuel prices and hyper-inflation, the Gaza war, if it widens, could disrupt oil supplies.
What is clear is that the world is on the cusp of major geopolitical change. Such change could also potentially reshape the global financial order and trade patterns.
After all, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza essentially are great-power conflicts, pitting two major coalitions against each other. On one side are the US and its allies that are supporting both Israel and Ukraine. And on the other side are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. The deployment in Israel of US military officers with vast experience in urban combat, including a Marine Corps general, shows how deeply the Biden administration is involved in Israel’s Gaza war.
The clash of the two coalitions increases the significance of the Global South as a ‘swing’ factor in the global geopolitical competition. Countries in the Global South reject a return to the with-us or against-us approach of the Cold War era. For example, they have generally declined to participate in Western sanctions or otherwise isolate Russia.
The weight of the Global South is growing at a time when the power of the West is weakening. The world’s fastest-growing economies are largely in the Global South, which has long been frustrated by the sidelining of its interests in global discussions. The Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region is a key front in the struggle between the two coalitions for influence in the Global South. But America’s support for Israel’s Gaza war has set back US diplomatic interests in the largely Islamic MENA.
Israel has made peace with some of its Arab neighbours, including Egypt, with which it signed the 1978-79 Camp David Accords. Israel also signed a peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. The UAE and Bahrain agreed in 2020 under the Abraham Accords to normalise relations with Israel. Israel’s conflict with Palestinians, however, has persisted, despite the 1993 Oslo I Accords and the 1995 Oslo II Accords
Israel’s war would likely have a significant impact in MENA, a region long blighted by Western military interventions. With the exceptions of Iran, Egypt and Turkey, every major power in the Greater Middle East is a modern construct created largely by the British and the French. Today, failed states like Libya and Yemen epitomise the enduring costs of foreign military interventions.
Make no mistake: The outcome of what Israel calls a “self-defence war” is likely to shape its own future. Without prudent and limited military objectives achievable without continuing mass civilian casualties in Gaza, Israel risks worsening its regional security environment. Directly occupying densely populated Gaza would impose major military and economic costs on Israel at a time when its armed forces are already overstretched and its economic growth is taking a beating.
More broadly, the Hamas surprise attack on Israel holds lessons for other countries on the frontlines against international terrorism, including India. The first lesson is to never rest on one’s oars as terrorists will innovate by crafting new means for launching surprise attacks. Too often, counterterrorism strategies seek to prevent a repeat of past types of attacks without looking ahead at innovative new techniques that may be applied by terrorists. Another lesson is to impose sustained costs on state sponsors of terror. Israel, unfortunately, allowed Qatar to keep funding Hamas.
Meanwhile, with the US now involved in two separate wars and its stocks of munitions already running critically low, Biden is working to mend ties with China, in the hope of averting a third war—over Taiwan. After sending a string of cabinet officials to Beijing since May, the White House effectively suspended the 2022 US controls on exports of semiconductors and chip-making equipment to Beijing by granting South Korea’s Samsung and SK Hynix in October an indefinite waiver to export such technology to China.
Even before the Gaza war began, the US sought to partly address its dwindling reserves of munitions by shipping cluster bombs to Ukraine, as Biden acknowledged in a CNN interview. But now US munitions transfers to Israel are further depleting American stockpiles, even as a war over Taiwan can scarcely be ruled out. So, seeking desperately to stabilise Sino-US relations, Biden will hold a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders meeting, which will be held in San Francisco during November 12-18.
Before moving against Taiwan, Xi would like the Israel and Ukraine wars to last as long as possible so that US military stocks are furthered drained. If and when he moves on Taiwan, he could goad China’s ally, North Korea, to open another front. A two-war scenario in Asia, with simultaneous conflicts in the Taiwan Strait and the Korean Peninsula, would be a geopolitical and military nightmare for the US.
Israel’s war, meanwhile, is increasing the salience of Qatar, the gas-rich speck of a country that has transformed itself from a regional gadfly into an international rogue elephant by funding violent jihadists across the MENA region—from the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas. Qatar hosts two major American military bases. And the US last year rewarded Qatar by designating it as its ‘Major Non-NATO Ally’ (MNNA), a status enjoyed by 17 other countries, including Pakistan but not India. Qatar played a key role in the US-Taliban accord that eventually returned that terrorist militia to power in Afghanistan.
Today, Qatar is leveraging its ties with Hamas to serve as a go-between for Israeli-Hamas negotiations, including over the hostages. As an Israeli official put it on October 25, “Qatar is becoming an essential party and stakeholder in the facilitation of humanitarian solutions. Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time.”
The US and Israel may have cosy ties with Qatar but that has not stopped Qatar from jailing eight Indian former navy men for allegedly spying on the Qatari submarine programme for Israel. After a secret trial, the eight were recently awarded the death penalty. The reported charges against the eight seem bizarre as Qatar’s naval expansion is taking shape in foreign shipyards, mainly in Italy and Turkey. Without being tamed, this rogue elephant could become a bigger threat to regional and international security.
Israel’s war, meanwhile, has sparked a debate over a key question: “Is it a war crime to kill civilians?” Experts are citing the laws of war, which consist of four 1949 Geneva Conventions, their two Additional Protocols of 1977, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, as well as various weapons conventions. Lost in the debate is a harsh truth: International law is powerful against the powerless but powerless against the powerful.