The Taba Negotiations (January 2001 )

Three months after the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifda and several weeks before the Israeli elections brought Ariel Sharon to power, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak gave the green light for a last-ditch Palestinian-Israeli effort to reach a peace agreement. The negotiations-following tens of meetings between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, mostly in Jerusalem, almost from the collapse of the Camp David summit in July 2000-took place at the Egyptian resort town of Taba on the Red Sea from 21 to 27 January 2001 . In contrast to the talks at Camp David, where the Americans played a preponderant role, no outsiders participated in the Taba talks. The Israeli delegation, led by Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, included Yossi Beilin, Israel Hassoun, Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, Yossi Sarid, and Gilad Sher. The Palestinian delegation was headed by Ahmad Qurai` (Abu Ala'), speaker of the Palestinian Council, and included Yasir `Abid Rabbuh, Hassan Asfour, Muhammad Dahlan, Saeb Erakat, and Nabil Shaath. The talks, in which the Israelis moved considerably beyond the positions they had presented at Camp David as "red lines" beyond which they could not go "without jeopardizing the state," were nevertheless largely based on President Bill Clinton's parameters of 23 December 2000 (see JPS 119 , Doc. D1). The negotiations were called off by Prime Minister Barak on 27 January, on the eve of the Israeli elections held on 6 February 2001 .

Compared to the Camp David summit, which produced a number of accounts from members of the Israeli, Palestinian, and American delegations (see special documents in JPS 118 and 121; Docs. D3 and D4 in JPS 121 ), little has been written about the Taba talks. The most comprehensive account was perhaps that of Alain Gresh in Le Monde Diplomatique of September 2001 , which also reproduced the official Israeli and Palestinian position papers on the issues discussed (see Doc. B4 in JPS 122 for the Israeli and Palestinian position papers on refugees). The following two texts are the only documents on the Taba talks accepted by both sides.

The Israeli-Palestinian joint statement at Taba was released on 27 January 2001 and published by the Jersualem Post the following day. The document as presented here is from Le Monde Diplomatique's Web site at

The Moratinos "nonpaper" was compiled by the special envoy of the European Union to the Middle East, Miguel Angel Moratinos, at the request of the two parties--"not just for history, but because sooner or later there would have to be more talks" (Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2001 ). Moratinos, the only outsider present at Taba, though not at the meetings themselves, interviewed the negotiators after each session, according to Akiva Eldar in Ha'Aretz ( 14 February 2002 ), and prepared the document on the basis of their reports. The final document, successive drafts of which were sent to both sides for comment and correction, was completed and approved by both sides in summer 2001. It constitutes a kind of minutes, a summary of the positions of each side at the time the talks ended. The document, which was not to be published, was leaked and published by Ha'aretz on 14 February 2002.