Commonly law is seen as an alternative to violence, although it relies on violence or its threat for enforcement. Through a study of Israel’s campaign to transform international humanitarian law (IHL) by systematically violating it, this essay considers the possibility that violence precedes and even creates law. Israel has a long history of ad hoc “legal entrepreneurialism,” but its current effort, launched during the second intifada, is institutionalized, persistent, and internally coherent. The essay reviews the specific legal innovations Israel has sought to establish, all of which expand the scope of “legitimate” violence and its targets, contrary to IHL’s fundamental purposes of limiting violence and protecting non-combatants from it.

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