Six years of dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba, an enclave north of Aqaba Gulf, ended on Sept. 29. An international panel of judges declared its ruling on the dispute in favor of Egypt, settling the long-standing dispute over the right position of some of the demarcation line marks near Taba. Since the two countries had agreed to abide by the ruling long before it was known, it is expected that Israel will evacuate the disputed area and hand it back to Egypt.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is that the peace treaty signed on March 26, 1979, by both countries has survived a very serious test and has proved to be a very much needed step towards just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.
Both countries were guided by Article 7 of the treaty during the protracted meetings that took place in Cairo, Tel Aviv, Washington, D.C., and Geneva. That article stipulates that: 1) Disputes arising out of the application of interpretation of this treaty shall be resolved by negotiations; 2) Any such disputes which cannot be settled by negotiations shall be resolved by conciliation or submitted to arbitration. Accordingly, the two countries started a lengthy process of negotiations. Then a process of conciliation began with the help of American diplomacy. But it was arbitration that finally succeeded where both the other processes failed.
The lesson of Taba suggests that the way by which the ruling was reached is as important as the ruling itself. With this in mind, it will be a big mistake if the Israelis opt for delaying or ignoring the implementation of the ruling.
The road of just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is by no means a short one. The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel was and still is an important step on that road.
When Taba returns back home under the Egyptian sovereignty, it will be a victory not only for Egypt but for Israel and American diplomacy as well.
Egyptian Consulate General