Taba Summit

Taba Summit

The Taba summit (also known as "Taba Summit", "Taba Talks", "Taba Conference", "Taba", or "permanent status talks at Taba") were talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, held from January 21 to January 27, 2001 at Taba in the Sinai peninsula. They were peace talks aimed at reaching the "final status" negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and came closer to reaching a final settlement than any previous or subsequent peace talks yet ultimately failed to achieve its goals.

Diplomatic setting

The summit took place against the backdrop of the failed Camp David 2000 Summit between Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak and the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, and a Palestinian Intifada that commenced against Israel. The disparate Palestinian militant groups launched a variety of violent attacks against Israeli targets. The Palestinians asserted that the visit to the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif where the Al-Aqsa Mosque is) by the Likud leader Ariel Sharon sparked the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. For US President Bill Clinton, the peace diplomacy culminating at the Taba Summit was a final attempt to win an important political victory before he was to leave office (in the shadow of his own impeachment in 1999) and with expected changes of policy expected with the inauguration of President George W. Bush on January 20, 2001. On February 6, 2001, Ariel Sharon was elected as the new prime minister of Israel, and he refused to meet in person with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.


The Israelis and Palestinians had first negotiated in Washington DC under President Bill Clinton from December 19 to December 23, 2000. The Israelis under Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and the prime minister's bureau chief Gilad Sher. President Clinton presented bridging proposals. Following a meeting in Cairo, Egypt between Ben-Ami and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, the talks were then moved to Taba from January 21 to January 27, 2001.

EU description of the outcome of permanent status talks at Taba

There is a European Union (EU) unofficial report about the Taba talks (see complete full text here: [ [ "Middle East Historical Documents -Taba Negotiations: The Moratinos Non-Paper - January 2001"] . EU description of the outcome of permanent status talks at Taba.] , or in 5 parts in Haaretz: [ [ EU description of the outcome of permanent status talks at Taba - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] [ [ Dispute over Ma'aleh Adumim - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] [ [ How long is the Western Wall? - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] [ [ Symbols of sovereignty - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] [ [ A negative balance of return - Haaretz - Israel News ] ] ). Although the paper has no official status, it has been acknowledged by the parties as being a relatively fair description of the outcome of the negotiations on the permanent status issues at Taba. It draws attention to the extensive work which had been undertaken on all permanent status issues like territory, Jerusalem, refugees and security in order to find ways to come to joint positions. At the same time it shows that there remained serious gaps and differences between the two sides, which will have to be overcome in future negotiations:


The two sides agreed that in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 242, the June 4, 1967 lines would be the basis for the borders between Israel and the state of Palestine.

West Bank

For the first time both sides presented their own maps over the West Bank. The maps served as a basis for the discussion on territory and settlements. The Israeli side presented two maps, and the Palestinian side engaged on this basis. The Palestinian side presented some illustrative maps detailing its understanding of Israeli interests in the West Bank. The Israeli side stated that the Clinton proposals provide for annexation of settlement blocs. The Palestinian side did not agree that the parameters included blocs, and did not accept proposals to annex blocs. The Palestinian side stated that blocs would cause significant harm to the Palestinian interests and rights, particularly to the Palestinians residing in areas Israel seeks to annex.

Gaza Strip

Neither side presented any maps over the Gaza Strip. It was implied that the Gaza Strip would be under total Palestinian sovereignty, but details still had to be worked out. All settlements would be evacuated. The Palestinian side claimed it could be arranged in 6 months, a timetable not agreed to by the Israeli side. Both sides agreed that there was going to be a safe passage from the north of Gaza (Beit Hanun) to the Hebron district, and that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip must be territorially linked.


Both sides accepted in principle the Clinton suggestion of having a Palestinian sovereignty over Arab neighborhoods and an Israeli sovereignty over Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. Both sides favored the idea of an open city. The Israeli side accepted that Jerusalem would be the capital of the two states: "Yerushalaim", capital of Israel and "Al-Quds", capital of the state of Palestine. Both parties accepted the principle of respective control over each side's respective holy sites. Israel's sovereignty over the Western Wall would be recognized although there remained a dispute regarding the delineation of the area covered by the Western Wall and especially the link to what is referred to in Clinton's ideas as the space sacred to Judaism of which it is part. Both sides agreed that the question of "Haram al-Sharif"/Temple Mount has not been resolved.


Non-papers were exchanged which were regarded as a good basis for the talks. Both sides agreed to adopt the principles and references which could facilitate the adoption of an agreement. Both sides suggested, as a basis, that the parties should agree that a just settlement of the refugee problem in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 242 must lead to the implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 194. The Israeli side expressed its understanding that the wish to return shall be implemented within the framework of one of the following programs:

A. Return and repatriation1. to Israel2. to Israeli swapped territory3. to the Palestinian state.

B. Rehabilitation and relocation1. Rehabilitation in host country.2. Relocation to third country.

Both sides agreed that UNRWA should be phased out in accordance with an agreed timetable of five years, as a targeted period.

The Israeli side requested that the issue of compensation to former Jewish refugees from Arab countries be recognized, while accepting that it was not a Palestinian responsibility or a bilateral issue. The Palestinian side raised the issue of restitution of refugee property. The Israeli side rejected this.


#The Israeli side requested to have 3 early warning stations on Palestinian territory.
#The Israeli side maintained that the state of Palestine would be non-militarized as per the Clinton proposals. The Palestinian side was prepared to accept limitation on its acquisition of arms, and be defined as a state with limited arms.
#The two sides recognized that the state of Palestine would have sovereignty over its airspace.The Israeli side agreed to accept and honour all of Palestine civil aviation rights according to international regulations, but sought a unified air control system under overriding Israel control. In addition, Israel requested access to Palestinian airspace for military operations and training.
#The Israeli side agreed to a withdrawal from the West Bank over a 36 month period with an additional 36 months for the Jordan Valley in conjunction with an international force. The Palestinian side rejected a 36 month withdrawal process from the West Bank expressing concern that a lengthy process would exacerbate Palestinian-Israeli tensions.
#The Israeli side requested to maintain and operate five emergency locations on Palestinian territory (in the Jordan Valley) with the Palestinian response allowing for maximum of two emergency locations conditional on a time limit for the dismantling. The Palestinian side declined to agree to the deployment of Israeli armed forces on Palestinian territory during emergency situations, but was prepared to consider ways in which international forces might be used in that capacity, particularly within the context of regional security cooperation efforts.
#Both sides were prepared to commit themselves to promoting security cooperation and fighting terror.
#The Palestinian side was confident that Palestinian sovereignty over borders and international crossing points would be recognized in the agreement.

End of the negotiations

The Taba Summit officially ended with a joint statement [ Israeli-Palestinian joint statement at Taba. January 27, 2001] ] , that included some of the following points:

:"The Israeli and Palestinian delegations conducted...deep and practical talks with the aim of reaching a permanent and stable agreement between the two proved impossible to reach understandings on all issues, despite the substantial progress that was achieved in each of the issues discussed...The two sides take upon themselves to return to normalcy and to establish [a] security situation on the ground through the observation of their mutual commitments in the spirit of the Sharm e-Sheikh memorandum. The negotiation teams discussed four main themes: refugees, security, borders and Jerusalem, with a goal to reach a permanent agreement that will bring an end to the conflict between them and provide peace to both people...The Taba talks conclude an extensive phase in the Israeli-Palestinian permanent status negotiations with a sense of having succeeded in rebuilding trust between the sides...The two sides express their gratitude to President Hosni Mubarak...They also express their thanks to the European Union..."

Barak's negation of the talks

In fact Barak went even further, in a February 8 2001 statement [ [] "Barak to Bush: Sharon is not bound by negotiating ideas"] . Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser. Feb. 8, 2001.] released by Barak's media advisor he communicated to newly inaugurated President George W. Bush as follows:

:"Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak clarified this evening that the ideas which were brought up in the course of the recent negotiations conducted with the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, including those raised at the Camp David Summit and by President Clinton towards the end of his term in office, are not binding on the new government to be formed in Israel. In a letter to President George Bush, Prime Minister Barak stated that his government had done the utmost to bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that these efforts did not bear fruit, primarily because of a lack of sufficient readiness for compromise on the part of the Palestinian leadership...Before sending the letter, Barak spoke with former President Clinton, and they were in agreement that the ideas raised in the past months are not binding on the new government in Israel. Prime Minister Barak intends to convey this position also to the heads of the European Union and to Chairman Arafat."


In December 2000 President Clinton presented a "bridging proposal" aimed at ending the most recent Al-Aqsa Intifada culminating with the Taba Summit (January 22 and January 28, 2001). After the November 2000 US presidential elections, President Clinton was on his way out while George W. Bush was waiting in the wings. This was as far as Barak would take the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It put the Oslo peace process, from the time of Madrid Conference of 1991 on indefinite hold. In spite of Barak's concessions to the Palestinians, the majority of Israelis did not support him as seen in Ariel Sharon's rejection of Arafat's position vindicated with his election as prime minister on February 6, 2001.

Arafat may have wanted to place the Bush administration into the same set of proposals that had been put forth under Clinton, while Barak may have wanted a diplomatic success in the forthcoming elections he would face.

The talks had been structured around four committees to discuss different aspects of the peace negotiations:

#Jerusalem: Israeli negotiators presented to the Palestinians the idea of creating a special international regime for the "Holy Basin" -- an area including the Old City and some areas outside the walls including the Mount of Olives cemetery. The Palestinians rejected the proposal, insisting on Palestinian sovereignty instead.
#Territory and settlements: Israel reduced its demands to 6% with territorial compensation that would offset about 3%, while the Palestinians proposed an Israeli annexation of about 3% along with a territorial compensation of the same amount. The Israeli proposal would have given the Palestinians some 97% of the land area of the West Bank, but there was no final agreement.
#Refugees committee: Arab refugees from Israel and the equal number of Jewish refugees forced out of Arab countries, a problem dating back to the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin reported that Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha'ath, reached an agreement on the Palestinian right of return but Ahmed Qurei insisted on the Palestinian's Right of Return.
#Security issues: See above.

Reasons for impasse

The reasons for impasse are highly disputed.

The breakdown is often attributed to the political circumstances posed by Israeli elections and changeover in leadership in the United States: [ "frontline: shattered dreams of peace: the negotiations | PBS"] .] They had run out of political time. They couldn't conclude an agreement with Clinton now out of office and Barak standing for reelection in two weeks. "We made progress, substantial progress. We are closer than ever to the possibility of striking a final deal," said Shlomo Ben-Ami, Israel's negotiator. Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator, said, "My heart aches because I know we were so close. We need six more weeks to conclude the drafting of the agreement." Evidence to support this view is provided by David Matz in the "Palestine - Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture" [ "Trying to Understand the Taba Talks"] . By David Matz. "Palestine - Israel Journal of Politics, Economics and Culture." Vol.10 No.3 2003.] concerning a joint statement. He notes that, "The Taba negotiation began on Sunday evening, January 21, and ended on Saturday afternoon, January 27 [2001] . At the closing press conference, the parties issued this joint statement: 'The sides declare that they have never been closer to reaching an agreement and it is thus our shared belief that the remaining gaps could be bridged with the resumption of negotiations following the Israeli election'."

Uri Avnery of the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom attributed the failure to Barak, claiming that [ "Politicus Interruptus"] . By Uri Avnery. Gush Shalom. Feb. 23, 2002.] : "It was not Arafat who broke off the talks at this critical moment, when the light at the end of the tunnel was clearly visible to the negotiators, but Barak. He ordered his men to break off and return home."

ee also


Related article

*List of Middle East peace proposals

Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy and treaties

*Paris Peace Conference, 1919
*Faisal-Weizmann Agreement (1919)
*1949 Armistice Agreements
*Camp David Accords (1978)
*Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty (1979)
*Madrid Conference of 1991
*Oslo Accords (1993)
*Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace (1994)
*Camp David 2000 Summit
*Peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
*Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs
*List of Middle East peace proposals
*International law and the Arab-Israeli conflict

External links

* [ Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Dec. 2000-Jan. 2001] (Includes links to texts of Israeli, United States and other press reports)
* []
* [ 2001 Taba Talks Examination]
* [ Maps: Israeli proposals, from Camp David (2000) to Taba (2001)]

Further reading

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