Middle East Peace Negotiator Shares His Experiences with Students

Middle East Peace Negotiator Shares His Experiences with Students
Lynn Safranek
Law School Office of Communications
February 17, 2011

Chicago Law students gained insight into what it would be like to be at the negotiating table in the most intense disputes in recent world history with a visit from Daniel Taub, the principal deputy legal adviser for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Taub has served as a longtime member of Israel’s negotiating teams in talks with Syria and the Palestinians. At a February lunchtime talk organized by the Jewish Law Students Association, he told Chicago Law students about the changing role of international law and lawyers in the Middle East peace process. Taub's trip to the United States was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League.

In the earliest round of negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, Taub said, it was amazing to finally have both sides in the same room. “It was a remarkable experience, but there was a tremendous amount of hesitation and caution and misunderstanding because at that stage we didn’t really know each other that well,” he said.

The role of lawyers then was to act as bridge builders between the two sides; lawyers reached out to each other using their common skill sets and resources, Taub said. It also helped that many of the issues at stake involved legal language, with lawyers tackling questions such the definition of self determination or the components of statehood. When negotiations began to fail and both sides’ sense of trust waned, lawyers took on the role of defense attorneys. “The dynamic became far more adversarial,” Taub said.

At the end of the 1990s, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak was frustrated with the negotiations’ lack of progress. He met with President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at the 2000 Camp David Summit to negotiate a permanent status agreement, but the summit ended without an agreement being reached.

The Second Intifada followed shortly thereafter, with violent rioting and clashes. This ushered in a new role for international lawyers, who were now faced with advising the Israeli government on how to face complicated forms of security threats, Taub said.

In response to a question about whether the current uprisings in the Middle East were affecting Israel’s peace negotiations or the situation in Gaza, Taub said Israelis were very supportive of the Egyptian people's campaign for greater freedoms and economic rights, but that they were also aware of the dangers inherent in imposing democratic processes without a commitment to core democratic values.