Joel Singer served as Legal Adviser of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1993-96, and, prior to that, Director of the International Law Department of the Israel Defense Forces, holding the rank of colonel. Singer is the only person who has held both of these two high-level positions within the Israeli government. For a span of almost 25 years, beginning shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, working for both right-wing Likud governments and left-wing Labor governments, Singer participated in negotiating peace and other agreements with all of Israel’s Arab neighbors, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and the Palestinians.
During his tenure with Israeli governments, Singer worked closely with four Prime Ministers, six Ministers of Defense and seven Foreign Ministers, including Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizmann and Ariel Sharon.
In 1993-96, while working for the Rabin-Peres government, Singer negotiated a series of agreements with the PLO, known as the Oslo Accords, including the 1993 Israel-PLO Mutual Recognition Agreement, the 1993 Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (Oslo I), the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement, and the 1995 Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (Oslo II). Previously, while working for the Menachem Begin government, Singer was a principal author of the Israeli autonomy model developed in connection with the 1978 Camp David Accords and was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Palestinian Autonomy Talks with Egypt and the United States (1979-1982).
In 1978-79, Singer was a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Thereafter, Singer became a member of the joint Israeli-Egyptian military commission, as a well as a member of an interdepartmental steering committee that oversaw the negotiation of numerous normalization agreements between the two countries. In 1981, Singer was a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated an agreement with Egypt and the United States to establish a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) to undertake peacekeeping responsibilities in the Sinai. From 1982-86, Singer participated in efforts to resolve a border dispute between Israel and Egypt, through negotiations, conciliation (mediation) and, finally, arbitration, which took place in 1988 in Geneva, Switzerland (the Taba Arbitration).
In 1983, Singer was a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated an Israeli-Lebanese peace treaty with delegations of Lebanon and the United States (though the treaty did not come into effect).
In 1995-96, Singer was a member of the Israeli delegation that negotiated an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty with Syrian and American delegations, an effort that has not yet ended.
In recognition of his role in negotiating the Oslo Accords, in 1993, the University of Madrid named Singer a “Jurist of the Year” in a ceremony hosted by the King of Spain. In 2018, the HBO documentary movie The Oslo Diaries highlighted Singer’s role in negotiating the Oslo Accords. In the same year, Singer was portrayed in J.T. Rogers’ Tony Award-winning play Oslo, which played on Broadway, as well as in several other cities in the United States and abroad.
Singer has been described in the New Yorker as a “maven of Israeli- Arab relationships” and by the New York Magazine as “The Arafat Expert.” The Financial Times referred to Singer as the “Israeli brain and brawn” and the Washington Times called him “The Peacemaker.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz called Singer “[Prime Minister Yitzhak] “Rabin’s Man in Oslo” in a long interview with Singer in 2018, commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Agreement:
Singer has written extensively about the Middle East peace process and has been invited to speak about his negotiation and mediation experiences by foreign governments, as well as many U.S. and foreign universities, think tanks and other organizations. He has also provided commentary on Middle East peace process developments in interviews with media such as CNN, CBS, BBC World Service, PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, and the Christian Science Monitor.
After retiring from his service with the Israeli government, Singer became a partner in the Washington, DC office of an international law firm.