Andrew Bennett

How I learned to stop worrying and love international law

If the comments to my previous post are to be believed, international law inevitably sits alongside mortars, rockets, and suicide belts in the arsenal of those who seek to destroy Israel. To be sure, international law is far from perfect. Very often it is hijacked by pernicious self-interest. The mechanisms are flawed, the rules are vague, and enforcement is lacking. Overall, however, international law is critical to Israel. These are a few of the many examples of how international law serves Israel’s interests:

Israel’s Declaration of Independence rests “on the strength of the resolution of the United Nations General Assembly” that recognized the right of the Jewish people to a state in the Land of Israel.

The U.N. Charter eliminated the unrestricted right of other countries to attack Israel, while maintaining Israel’s right of self-defense.

When war does break out, international humanitarian law restrains the potential for barbarism against Israel. The Geneva Conventions provide extensive protections for Israelis not actively involved in hostilities, including Israeli soldiers placed hors de combat. Other rules limit the weapons that can be used against Israeli soldiers.

International law prohibits Israel’s enemies from even possessing particular weapons that are especially inhumane, such as chemical and biological weapons. And without the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran would be well within its rights as a sovereign nation to develop nuclear weapons.

The International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. specialized agency created by the Convention on International Civil Aviation, sets standards for air travel security that protect airplanes bound for Israel from aerial terrorism.

Israel’s peace treaties with countries like Jordan and Egypt are instruments of international law that further enhance Israel’s security with affirmative commitments to peace.

International law also supports Israel’s economy. A healthy national economy needs healthy international trade. Healthy international trade, in turn, requires the existence of legal mechanisms to enforce contracts. International law provides Israel with the mechanisms to support over $62 billion in annual exports, $70 billion in annual imports, and $112 billion in external debt. And international intellectual property law fosters Israeli ingenuity by ensuring that Israeli innovators are rewarded for their creations.

By serving Israel’s vital interests, international law cannot possibly be an unequivocal weapon against Israel. Israel’s supporters should not treat it like one.


This post is the second in a series on Reclaiming International Law. The first post explored the Jewish tradition in international law. The third post will look at inconsistent and unfair enforcement of international law.

About the Author
Andrew writes on (inter)national security law and policy. He holds a JD from the University of Maryland School of Law and an AB in Economics from Vassar College