THERE was that awful grin spreading across the face of Benjamin Netanyahu as he talked about the ‘tragedy’ of aid workers targeted and killed by his own troops this week.

There was the anger that surged as the Israeli PM described World Central Kitchen (WCK) staff as “innocent” – creating an outrageous and unforgivable contrast with Gaza’s “guilty” 8000 murdered children.

There was the despair watching those long-awaited food convoys turn away from Gaza and sail back to Cyprus upon the terrible news.

There were quickly the smug naysayers claiming arms sales to Israel will never be suspended by the UK or US and there exists no other way to apply economic pain to this genocidal regime.

There was the stark fact that in Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, Britain has a vacillating duo at the Westminster helm when the people of Gaza need bold, decisive action.

But despite all of this, stopping weapons sales could be on the cards – not because of Israel’s never-ending human carnage in Gaza, but because of the famine it has consciously crafted.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf pleads with Rishi Sunak after Israel kills aid workers

Yes, it is a horrific distinction. Killing people by mistake in war seems legally permissible … but depriving a population of food straightforwardly breaks the Geneva Convention. And that’s the line Israel crossed when it added the seven brave aid workers to its grim roll call of death. Not just seven more murders, not even seven killings of foreign citizens including three British volunteers – but seven killings of workers trying to deliver food aid.

Israeli media report that the WCK food convoy was hit three times near a warehouse in central Gaza after unloading the latest delivery of aid brought to the coastal enclave on a recently inaugurated maritime route. As survivors of each attack ran on to seek shelter in the next clearly badged aid vehicle, they were bombed again.

This just cements a judgment that seems to have been made by government lawyers days, maybe weeks ago, even though Foreign Secretary David Cameron hasn’t seen fit to publish that advice.

But last weekend a newspaper leaked a recording of the Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns (below) telling a private Tory event the UK Government had received legal advice saying Israel has breached international law and the UK would have to cease all arms sales to Israel without delay. After the leak Kearns stood by her words.

The National: Alicia Kearns

This matters. And the whole establishment knows it.

British barrister Sir Geoffrey Nice, who led the trial of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, said: “It would not be surprising if there had been advice to that effect from the Foreign Office’s lawyers. The UK would have to look at the whole issue of arms sales to Israel [because this] takes you into the area of aiding and abetting. Countries supplying arms to Israel may now be complicit in criminal warfare.’

Well quite.

And Monday night’s terrible slaughter has both heightened and focused those conclusions. Former Middle East minister Alistair Burt said that if the attack was “a deliberate aim at an aid convoy, [that] calls into question humanitarian law and potential breaches of it”. He believes there is now a higher chance of the UK suspending arms sales — as it did in 1982 and 2002.

Meanwhile, former security adviser Lord Peter Ricketts told Sky News: “I would like to see the UK decide to suspend arms export licences to Israel” in part because the aid worker murders look part of a pattern of recklessness, rather than a one-off accident.

Scots-born Labour peer Lord Charles Falconer says that if Israel has broken international law the UK would also be stopped from sharing intelligence.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour defer to UK party bosses on selling arms to Israel

Jings, even David “Margaret Thatcher was a visionary” Lammy has slightly upped the ante for Labour, urging Cameron yet again to publish the legal advice and claiming to be “deeply concerned” that Israel may have breached it.

Still, that comes from a man who thought Israeli bombing of the Jabalia refugee camp five months ago “could be legally justifiable if there was a military objective”, and a boss who thought Israel had the right to block water, fuel and food reaching Gaza.

Of course, Sir Keir scrambled to undo that disastrous pronouncement delivered live on LBC and heard by millions after 11 Labour councillors in Burnley resigned in protest – this week a further 20 councillors across Lancashire quit the party and say they’ll serve as independents.

Meanwhile, a new poll suggests 56% of those sampled back an export ban on weapons (17% against) and 59% say Israel is violating human rights in Gaza (12% against).

The tide is rising.

But as ever – not driven by anything the Labour Party has said or done. The SNP’s Brendan O’Hara topped Radio 4’s PM programme last night calling for an immediate recall of the Commons to vote through a ban on weapons sales to Israel. “If a tragedy like this doesn’t merit interrupting MPs’ break, then I don’t know what does.”

The National: The Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza following an Israeli airstrikeThe Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza following an Israeli airstrike (Image: AP Photo/Abed Khaled)

Would such a ban be significant?

“The optics of a staunch ally turning on Israel would be enormous.”

That’s true.

The Campaign against the Arms Trade estimates Britain has exported weapons worth £500 million to Israel since 2008. The Americans have exported around half that 16-year total in just six months – and of course the Biden administration is weighing up whether to sell Israel up to 50 new F-15 fighter jets in an $18 billion deal. But that’s only their officially declared weapons sales.

It’s believed 100 more have been completed, including thousands of bombs, but these escaped congressional oversight because each transaction was relatively small.

But the public mood is hardening on Israel’s genocide and once again Labour are way behind the curve.

If “starving a population totally” – as former Tory attorney general Dominic Grieve put it yesterday – is the Israeli atrocity that finally and clearly breaches the Geneva Convention, triggering a ban on arms sales and intelligence sharing, then where the hell does his morally illiterate statement of five months ago leave Starmer?

READ MORE: Families of British aid workers killed in Gaza pay tribute

Worse than nowhere: 100% wrong.

Israel’s belief that it could block water, fuel and food reaching Gaza – aided by comments from politicians like the UK Labour leader – will soon be exposed as a war crime.

And that’s when concerted, serious economic action should begin.

Once UK Government lawyers confirm Israel has broken international law, citizens must press not just for a ban on arms exports to Israel but also on arms imports from Israel to Britain. According to defence analysts like Tim Ripley, that’s a far more lucrative trade.

The Israeli government owns most of the country’s arms industry, is a net exporter of weapons to the UK and benefits massively and directly from those sales.

So whilst debate on the merits of a Eurovision boycott will inevitably restart in the wake of Monday night’s aid worker murders, what about arenas that actually showcase Israeli military products – like the Farnborough International Exhibition this July – “the world’s best airshow for the aerospace, aviation and defence industries to build new connections, engage with thought leaders and get access to unparalleled business development opportunities.” Is that all OK?

The National: Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron

This everyday exchange of weaponry is what you’d expect a robust leader of the opposition to tackle – pushing further than the Tories would ever dare. But it’ll be left to the SNP again to push that moral and organisational envelope.

So, what next? Well, the Tories could just surprise everyone.

Cameron is sleekit and Sunak massively evasive on the existence of legal advice, but sooner or later they will have to act.

Halting export licences could let Sunak retrieve a tiny, tiny bit of moral high ground and leave Labour floundering again after Pat McFadden’s grim-faced interview earlier this week committing Labour to keep supplying weapons to the Israelis.

Indeed, Cameron at the 75th anniversary of Nato in Brussels may be on manoeuvres to get support from other European leaders and agree a new, tougher position on war crimes before the UK Parliament resumes in 10 days and his Lordship must face the music.

Yes, Israel has God knows how many outstanding UN motions against it and Netanyahu only seems emboldened by the storm over the WCK killings. But the SNP, Stephen Flynn, Brendan O’Hara – and even the embattled Humza Yousaf cannot let up. Change is coming and Labour’s latest, limp posturing proves that none but the SNP will keep piling the pressure on for Gaza.