U.S. Position in Israel-Palestine Conflict: In Light of International Law

The conflict of Israel-Palestine is deeply rooted back to the 20th century and after 75 years in contemporary time; the situation has only turned to the worse.

The conflict of Israel-Palestine is deeply rooted back to the 20th century and after 75 years in contemporary time; the situation has only turned to the worse. Since the attack of October 7th launched by Hamas, more than 25,000 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) in retaliation to their 1200 casualties (Al Jazeera.net. Qatar, 2023). U.S. as a hegemonic entity have used a biased and aggressive approach in this conflict, which was highlighted in President Joe Biden’s 15 minute pro-Israeli speech where he says “Israel has a right to defend itself and we stand with Israel” (US Network Pool). Reportedly, in the first 6 days of the attack almost 6000 bombs were deployed by Israel in Gaza which was nearly U.S. total in Afghanistan in 1 year (Gaza, 2023 ). On the other hand, 100 white phosphorous bombs were detained in Gaza by the IDF according to (News, 2023 ). After massive war crimes and genocide by Israel, the US position has been biased towards Israel as the former vetoed against a ceasefire introduced in UNSC by Russian Federation.

On the other hand, International law is a collection of rules and regulations that governs relations between sovereign states. States tend to choose and pick to adhere with international law. In contemporary era, the Fourth Geneva Conventions and three additional protocols were formulated in modernity to protect people in times of armed conflict. However, Israel is violating and breaching international law in all of its capacity. The country is labeled as an apartheid state for targeting Muslims in Gaza along with animals, hospitals, civilians, children, pregnant women and old age people which go against International law. It is rupturing U.S. position in the international community since it is a preacher of democracy and human rights around the globe.


“Biden Administration’s unconstrained support for Israel is conflicting with International Law and rupturing its democratic image”

Research Question

Question 01: How is U.S. positioning itself under Biden Administration in Israel-Palestine Conflict in light of International Law?

Theoretical Background

Theory of Realism marries well to the significance of Middle East as per changing dynamics of world politics and national interests in the 21st century whilst keeping in view position of United States. Realism promotes the idea of prioritizing national interests and power maximization over any other element in an anarchic structure. It stresses on how states should use means of offensive realism in order to ensure its sovereignty and security. States are considered as central figures in the world that are in a battle of constant survival and competition. As much as the theory encourages states to maximize their power potential and survival in international arena, similarly, it forgoes importance of morality in its entirety. There is no authoritative body that can hold states accountable for their actions.

It is clearly evident that states seek to struggle for power in pursuit of their national interests. United States is a global hegemony that positions itself according to its national interests and views Middle East as a potential region to exert its influence with the help of its most trusted ally Israel. States seek to maximize their relative power because they can never be sure of the intentions of other states (Mearsheimer, 2001). The U.S. has sought to resolve the conflict in order to lower chances of regional instability but have failed to do so. Israel is committing horrific war crimes in Gaza under the dilemma of offensive realism that has landed itself in turmoil. As aforementioned, Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians, animals, hospitals and residential buildings in aim of eradicating Hamas, but on the other side of the coin, it is breaching International Law on all these fronts. The IDF is using the method of ‘all in all out’ and forgoing morality while on the hunt for Hamas militants.

Historical Background

The Religious affinity of Christianity, Judaism and Islam with the Holy Land and Al Aqsa Mosque dates back to early centuries. Wars have been fought during those times in order to conquer Jerusalem of which most prominent is the Battle of Hattin which was led by Salahuddin Ayubi in 1187 and the land was captured by Muslims. However, after WWI and defeat of the Ottoman Empire, in 1922, Jerusalem fell in the hands of British Empire which brought into notion the ‘Balfour Declaration 1917’. However, in light of International law, the document of Balfour Declaration which promotes a national home for Jewish people in Palestinian land was not a legally binding document.

According to political perspective, the holocaust (1941-1945) of WWII is remembered as a grave nightmare for the Jewish people. The Nazi Germany murdered around 6 million European Jews during the time frame. At the end of the war, US joined in with UK, when the latter proposed for one hundred thousand Jews relocation to land of Palestine. Legality of the state of Israel has its roots from the resolution passed in UN General Assembly which divides the land of Palestine into two states; Arab and Jewish in 1947. In 1948, US was the first country to recognize Israel as a sovereign state due to underlying vested interests of U.S. such as Zionist lobbying and exerting influence over the Middle Eastern region through Israel. Nakba is an Arabic term referring to ‘catastrophe’ in English. It highlights the 1948 Arab Israel War where 700,000-800,000 Palestinians were displaced from their homes. They lost 80% of their possession over land and it fell in the hands of Israel.

Khalid Rashidi in his book, The 100 years War on Palestine, gives an overview of how Palestine was subjected to injustices in the 20th century (Khalidi, 2020) . He mentions the Six-Day War where the Americans struggled in Vietnam which is why it turned to Israel as a potential ally against Soviet Union backed regimes. It is the same reason why U.S. supports Israel as it provides a strategic depth to the former.


The decades of U.S. narrative building of peace and democracy is quite under the radar around the world. The Liberal country is facing criticisms for its biased approach towards the conflict and unconstrained support for Israel which may result in a declining influence of U.S. hegemony around the globe. Young Generation Z within borders of the United States supports the cause of Palestinians, despite administration favors Israel. President Biden not once mentioned Palestine in his 15 minute speech and favored Israel’s stance on the conflict and favors an apartheid state that has illegal settlements. The settlements violate International Humanitarian Law’ (UNSC 2334) (Nations, 2016).

The wall (710 km) that has been constructed in 2002 by Israel for defense purposes is also considered as illegal when the ICJ issued an advisory opinion in 2004, questioning its legality and demanded reparations to those that have been affected.

As much as there are obvious reasons to hold Israel accountable according to International law; illegal settlements, use of phosphorous bombs, targeting women and children, bombing residential buildings and hospitals, displacement of thousands of Palestinians and occupying their territories, there is no accountability whatsoever as they are backed by the United States. The U.S. support is vital for Israel in order to commit these atrocities because they feel protected under its wings.

Legal Clauses on Israel’s Atrocities

International law and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 specifically address protection of civilians during time of armed conflict and occupation.

Article 33 of Fourth Geneva Convention

“It prohibits collective punishment, and any measures intended to terrorize the population.”

Israel is immensely violating article 33 as it is aimed at eradicating Hamas from the face of the earth. In order to make it happen, Israel is bombarding Gaza strip unconditionally. As aforementioned, IDF is not just targeting Hamas soldiers but targeting residential buildings, women and children which are strictly prohibited under International Law. Similarly, United States is being criticized worldwide for supporting Israel blindly.

Article 49 of Fourth Geneva Convention

“The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” It also prohibits the “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory.”

According to the clause Israel has no right for settling in Palestinian land. However, Israel has built illegal settlements. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported 279 illegal settlements and 343 settler attacks against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank as per December 2023 (Snapshot, 2023). Moreover, U.S. support for Israel in the UNSC is mere proof that being hegemony, it is failing to ensure justice and democracy.

Convention on Prohibition or Restriction on the use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects (Protocols I, II, III)

The clause was brought into action on 2nd December 1983 in accordance with article 5 (1) and (3). It had 50 signatory countries which included Israel. The protocol does not explicitly ban the use of certain conventional weapons (including white phosphorous) but outlines specific restrictions on their use against civilians and in certain environments. According to Reuters, Israel used white phosphorus munitions in retaliation to the October 7th attack which has gravely concerned the U.S. White House Spokesperson John Kirby recently stated that the U.S. supplies another military with white phosphorous, with full expectation that it will be used for legitimate purposes under law of armed conflict. Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa director claimed that white phosphorous can burn down houses and cause egregious harm to civilians. According to 2009 HRW report, Israel repeatedly exploded white phosphorous bombs in the air over civilians and populated areas and damaging civilian infrastructure; school, hospital and marketplace (Watch, 2009).

Article 35 (3) of the Geneva Convention

“Causing deliberate damage to the natural environment in a way that would be detrimental to the health or survival of the civilian population is prohibited.”

Israel has planned to flood Gaza’s tunnels with Seawater and has launched pumping through large pumps. It is against International Humanitarian Law (Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 1949). It will have adverse effects on civilian population and environment. There would be no clean water to drink, agriculture will be negatively affected and would have long term implications.


Israel and Palestine conflict is embedded in this whirlpool until or unless Israel is held accountable for its actions. The 2023 conflict, by far, has been the bloodiest and deadliest in terms of Palestinian deaths. Babies and women are being massacred in broad daylight yet the western powers are blind to the atrocities committed by Israel and still support it in its actions. US being a global hegemony have been biased in its decisions and statements towards Israel and have been neglecting its responsibility of preaching democracy and humanitarian plight across the world. Biden Administration is dealing with two war fronts; Ukraine-Russia and Israel-Palestine.

The war is sponsored by the American taxpayers, and generation Z would not be willing to do so for the near future. The U.S. is experiencing immense protests in favor of Palestine and the young generation, as aforementioned, favors the Palestinian cause of self determination. Biden Administration is using aggressive measures in support of Israel and neglecting international calls for a ceasefire. However, U.S. is now expecting Israel to lower their target of civilians in a mission to eradicate Hamas, as they will lose support from the international community.

Hamail Tahir
Hamail Tahir
I am an MPhil Scholar in Strategic Studies at the National Defense University Islamabad (NDU). I am currently working as a web contributor at the Institute of Peace and Diplomatic Studies (IPDS). I am eager to understand the changing global dynamics and how states use their national interests to acquire power in the international arena. My focus primarily lies on strategic initiatives during peace and conflict paradigms. If need be, can be reached at hamail.tahir[at]gmail.com