This paper seeks to show how Israel has deployed Occupation Law in strategic ways to incrementally take the land of Palestine without its people. It argues that Israel has used UN Security Council Resolution 242 to retroactively legitimate those colonial takings in a political framework shaped by U.S. intervention. In themselves, the constituent pieces of the argument are not new and they have been extensively discussed in legal, political science, and historical literature. Rather than consider them as the sum of their parts, this paper attempts to view the issues that have been kept distinct and separate within disciplinary silos as a mutually-reinforcing whole, demonstrating that the United States’ political position made an otherwise bankrupt legal argument effective and showing how the Security Council’s deliberations gave Israel ample room for maneuver in spite of the drafting parties’ original intent. In examining the relationship between law and political power, the article points to the ways in which the balance of power bears upon the meaning and significance of law in international conflict. Thus, the failure of Occupation Law to regulate the occupation of the Palestinian Territories ultimately reflects the outcome of a political, not a legal, contest: Israel’s legal argumentation that the territories are merely under its administration would have no value were it not for the power politics that shape international relations in the region.
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