Jonathan Livny, Lieutenant Colonel (retired), Military Judge 1976-1999, as seen in The Law in These Parts, directed by Ra’anan Alexandrowicz.(Cinema Guild)

Today on Tablet, our esteemed senior writer Liel Leibovitz reports on a new book and a new film that shed light on the impact of the Israeli military presence in West Bank on its vaunted forces.

Watching the movie, one is struck by a sense of systemic collapse, one that stems from the inability to reconcile the inherent tensions that arise from governing a civilian population and a swath of land that Israel will neither forgo nor formally annex. It’s a complication even the sharpest legal minds can’t resolve. As the film begins, one such expert, Dov Shefi, who headed the army’s International Law Branch between 1968 and 1973, is asked why the legal memorandum the army’s attorneys prepared before the 1967 war referred to any future territories seized in combat as “occupied territories,” while an updated memorandum, issued a few months after the army took hold of Gaza and the West Bank, changed the definition to the more ambiguous “held territories.” Shefi cannot answer.

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