IBRU, Durham University’s Centre for Borders Research, has awarded its fifth annual Raymond Milefsky Award to Dr. Haim Srebro.
In his role as Director General of the Survey of Israel, Dr. Srebro has had a leading role in negotiating and surveying national boundaries with Egypt and Jordan as well as the maritime boundary between Israeli and Cypriot exclusive economic zones. He also worked with the United Nations to demarcate provisional separation lines with Syria and Lebanon, and he co-chairs the Israel-Jordan Joint Team of Experts that maintains that international boundary and promotes cross-border projects on land and at sea.
Dr. Srebro’s impact on boundary-making practice, however, extends far beyond the region. He founded and chairs the Working Group on International Boundaries of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) and coedited FIG’s influential Publication 59 on International Boundary Making. Dr. Srebro is presently editing a companion publication on maritime boundaries.
Most recently, Dr. Srebro has served as councillor to the United States-led effort to delimit the maritime boundary between Israel and Lebanon. This effort began in 2020 and culminated in October 2022 with an agreement that is particularly notable because the two parties are still technically at war with each other.
As IBRU’s director Philip Steinberg noted with reference to the Israel-Lebanon agreement, “The fact that two teams of dedicated negotiators, employing cartographic skills, legal knowledge, and steadied patience, were able to agree to a peaceful solution against all odds demonstrates the potential for boundary negotiations to help conflicting states overcome impasses. The world is a better, more predictable place, with a greater chance of lasting peace, because of the dedicated work of boundary professionals, including Haim Srebro.”
Noting that the persistence of frosty relations between the two governments stymied IBRU’s efforts to pair Srebro’s award with a parallel award to one of his Lebanese counterparts, Steinberg cautioned, “Boundary delimitation does not in itself turn antagonists into friends. However, by bringing states together to identify their common interests and to frankly discuss their differences, boundary delimitation can, under the right circumstances, provide a wedge through which a measure of peace can be achieved amidst ongoing tension. That’s why Dr. Srebro’s work with FIG has been so important: it establishes a foundation on which others can build peace in their regions.”
Reflecting on the significance of this award in the context of the recently completed Israel-Lebanon negotiations, Professor Steinberg noted that Ray Milefsky himself had played a key role in the first round of Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary negotiations from 2010 through 2012, and thus the receipt of the award by Dr. Srebro honours Ray’s legacy as well as the perseverance of Dr. Srebro and the other negotiators.
As Frederic Hof, the U.S. State Department official who convened the 2010-2012 negotiations, wrote in New Lines Magazine just as the 2020 negotiations were commencing: “[Ray] was the person who brought this mediation to the brink of success. And if Lebanon and Israel are able now to complete the work they suspended in 2012, both sides will owe a great deal to the knowledge, creativity, and decency of the late Ray Milefsky.”
The Milefsky Award is made possible by a bequest from the estate of Raymond Milefsky, a long-time borders expert with the U.S. Department of State who was a frequent tutor at IBRU training workshops. The award includes a cash prize of £745.
The Milefsky Award is made annually to an individual or organisation that has advanced boundary-making or cross-border cooperation. Nominations for the 2023 award will open in January 2023.
Image courtesy of FIG (International Federation of Surveyors)