Location, location, arbitration

Jonathan Wood FCIArb reports from Tel Aviv Arbitration Week 2023

You can attend an arbitration day or week in most places around the globe, from Abidjan to Zanzibar (my next project!). The popularity of these events is a testament to the utility of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism to support global trade and investment. These gatherings are a combination of education, conversation and networking. Post-pandemic, they are an opportunity to meet up with old friends not seen for some years, occasionally almost forgotten; make new contacts; and keep up to date with developments in new institutional rules, "soft laws", case reports and current issues. It is not unfair to say that the topics covered on these occasions have a certain sameness. So, what does make one of these arbitration weeks stand out from the rest?

Tel Aviv Arbitration Week - #TLVAW - is in its fourth year and ambitiously proclaimed itself the best yet with networking, professional panels, and excellent food and drink. It didn't disappoint.

The opening reception on Sunday evening and the main session on Monday took place in the old district of Jaffa, in a venue usually the preserve of weddings. As might be expected of such a venue, the atmosphere was convivial, overlooking the blue Mediterranean sea. But this was not an occasion of frivolity but of profound erudition.

The following days comprised side events hosted by law firms and trade associations, with topics to suit everyone. I attended two events. The first, hosted by ERM law firm, and supported by Ciarb, involved a lively discussion about infrastructure projects and dispute resolution. The event stood out by having corporate lawyers present the structure of international deals and the various dispute mechanisms in the many contractual documents and then debate the issues that might arise from the transaction. The second was hosted by the Manufacturers Association of Israel on the critical topic of energy. Having the commercial personnel discuss the issues was a refreshing approach, hearing their perspective. After all, they are the ultimate clients, and we must listen to what they say. The highlight for me was a presentation by Dana Dayboug from the Attorney General’s office in Israel, who recounted the background to the negotiations and mediation of the maritime boundary dispute between Israel and Lebanon, a historic achievement. A dispute between a sovereign state that does not recognise its counterparty's sovereign status is a fascinating story.

Of course, spending a week in Israel cannot pass without comment on the political climate. The "day of outrage" involving vehicles blocking the highways ensured we were aware of that.

But despite the travails of this remarkable country, the event shone through. And when the sun shines and temperatures reach 28 degrees in late February or early March, and the location is a vibrant city on an unending stretch of sandy beach, one cannot but come away revitalised and invigorated.