In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section The Taba Arbitration

  • Introduction
  • Official Arbitration Documents
  • On the Award in General
  • The Political Background to the Arbitration
  • Non licet as Opposed to Non liquet
  • Critical Date in the Taba Arbitration
  • Conciliation versus Arbitration in the Taba Compromis
  • The Principle of Uti Possidetis and Stability of Boundaries
  • Acquiescence and Estoppel
  • Delimitation and Demarcation of Boundaries

International Law The Taba Arbitration
by
Robbie Sabel
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199796953-0208

Introduction

The 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty stipulated that the boundary was the “[r]ecognized international boundary between Egypt and the former mandated territory of Palestine.” A disagreement arose between the Egyptian and Israeli surveyors as to the correct location of parts of the mandatory border, however. Egypt claimed that Israel was refraining from complete withdrawal from Sinai, and therefore refused to normalize relations with Israel. The issue also became one of internal Israel politics, with the right wing led by Yitzhak Shamir taking a hard line on the issue and the left-wing Labour Movement led by Shimon Peres being more willing to compromise. Egypt’s claim relied on existing pillars, and Israel relied on the 1906 agreement between Britain, as the administrator of Egypt, and the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine. The majority award of the Tribunal held that it would decide the location of the pillars “as it was demarcated, consolidated, and commonly understood during the period of the Mandate,” which was “the critical period.” As to the site advanced by Egypt, the Award admitted that “there is no evidence with respect to the erection of this pillar in 1907–07 nor with regard to its existence in the following years”; however, “throughout the critical period until a time after 1967 there was a boundary pillar at the location which during this whole period was considered to be a boundary pillar.” “Where the States concerned have, over a period of more than fifty years, identified a marker as a boundary pillar and acted upon that basis, it is no longer open to one of the parties or to third states to challenge that long held assumption on the basis of an alleged error.” “The principle of the stability of boundaries, requires that boundary markers, long accepted as such by the States concerned, should be respected and not open to challenge indefinitely on the basis of error.” The dissenting opinion of Ruth Lapidoth held that that “Egypt and Great Britain adopted the boundary line of the 1906 Agreement, without reference to any changes on the ground which may have occurred subsequent to that Agreement.” According to Lapidoth, “The majority erroneously attributes stability to boundary markers whereas the principle of stability and permanence applies not to markers but to boundaries lawfully established and recognized.” Since the arbitrators were not authorized to choose a location for a pillar not advanced by the parties, the final pillar on the seashore was not determined and, after the arbitration was concluded, the parties negotiated its location.

Official Arbitration Documents

The Inner Cabinet Decision on Taba (1986) gives the political background to the decision to go to arbitration. The Arbitration Compromis (1986) sets out the structure, functions, and limitations of the Arbitration Panel. The Memorial, Counter-Memorial, and Rejoinder of Israel (1987, 1988) set out the case for Israel. The Memorial, Counter-Memorial, and Rejoinder of Egypt (1987, 1988) set out the case for Egypt. The Award of the Egypt-Israel Arbitration Tribunal (1988) details the reasoning and decision of the majority and the Dissenting Opinion of Ruth Lapidoth—Award of the Egypt-Israel Arbitration Tribunal. The Egypt-Israel Agreement on Taba (1989) settled the part of the dispute that was beyond the authority of the Arbitration Tribunal, namely the border from the last pillar, No. 91, till the sea shore.

  • Arbitration Compromis: Case concerning the location of boundary markers in Taba between Egypt and Israel, 11 September 1986. “Award of the Egypt Israel Arbitration Tribunal.” International Legal Materials 27 (1988): 1427, 1432–1433.

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    The compromis follows fairly closely the model compromis of the Permanent Court of International Arbitration, but it contains two unusual clauses. The Arbitration was to be suspended to allow an attempt at conciliation, and the arbitrators were not authorized to select a location for boundary pillars other than locations proposed by the parties themselves.

  • “Award of the Egypt-Israel Arbitration Tribunal.” International Legal Materials 27 (1988): 1427, 1432–1433.

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    The majority decision of the Tribunal accepted Egypt’s claimed position for the final border pillar of the British Mandatory period, but left open the location of the border where it reaches the sea shore.

  • Dissenting Opinion of Ruth Lapidoth—Award of the Egypt-Israel Arbitration Tribunal,” 133–213.

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    In her dissenting opinion, Ruth Lapidoth wrote, “The majority erroneously attributes stability to boundary markers whereas the principle of stability and permanence applies not to markers but to boundaries lawfully established and recognized.”

  • Inner Cabinet Decision on Taba, 12 January 1986.

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    This Israeli cabinet decision gives Israel’s position on the political background to the decision to go to arbitration with Egypt.

  • “Israel-Egypt Agreement on Taba.” International Law Reports 80 (1989): 694–695.

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    The Arbitration Tribunal did not take any decision as regards the route of the boundary from the final pillar to the Gulf of Aqaba. It was left to the parties to negotiate this line. They did so and reached an agreement concerning access to the Taba area and to Southern Sinai.

  • Memorial of the Arab Republic of Egypt: Pt. I–V (Vol. 1), VI–VII (Vol. 2), map atlas, + annexes (3 vols.), 1987. Counter-Memorial of the Arab Republic of Egypt: [Text] + Documentary annexes, 1987. Rejoinder of the Arab Republic of Egypt: [Text] + Documentary annexes, 1988. Law Library, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Catalogue Number 341.222(62:E1)/EGY.

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    The pleadings of Egypt are set out in full with annexes containing copies of documents and maps. They have not been published but are available to the public in a number of libraries, including the library of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University Jerusalem.

  • Memorial of Israel, text, annexes + maps, 13 May 1987. Counter-Memorial of Israel, text + annexes, 12 October 1987. Rejoinder of Israel, text + annexes, 1 February 1988. Law Library, Hebrew University Jerusalem, Catalogue number 41.222(62:E1)/EGY.

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    The pleadings of Israel are set out in full with annexes containing copies of documents and maps. They have not been published but are available to the public in a number of libraries, including the library of the Law Faculty of the Hebrew University Jerusalem.

  • Srebro, Haim. “The Egypt-Israel Agreement on the Location of the Final Marker on the Gulf of Aqaba, 26 February 1989.” In The Boundaries of Israel Today. By Haim Srebro. 126. Tel Aviv: Survey of Israel, 2012.

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    Surveyors from Egypt and Israel recorded the marking of the location of the agreed marker on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Legal Advisor of the US State Department, Abraham D. Sofaer, signed as a witness.

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