Kamil Abu Rokon appointed Israel’s next liaison to Palestinians
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Kamil Abu Rokon appointed Israel’s next liaison to Palestinians

Druze officer promoted to major general, will take over for Yoav Mordechai after formal ceremony in May

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Kamil Abu Rokon, center, Israel's next liaison to the Palestinians, receives the rank of major general from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, and Abu Rokon's wife in a ceremony at the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on March 29, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)
Kamil Abu Rokon, center, Israel's next liaison to the Palestinians, receives the rank of major general from IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, right, and Abu Rokon's wife in a ceremony at the army's Tel Aviv headquarters on March 29, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Kamil Abu Rokon was appointed Israel’s next military liaison to the Palestinians on Thursday, and will take over from Maj. Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, who has served in that role for four years.

In a ceremony at the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, Abu Rokon also received a promotion in rank from brigadier general to major general.

He will formally enter the position — known as coordinator of government activities in the territories — after a ceremony in May.

Abu Rokon will be the second Druze military liaison to the Palestinians and the second-ever Druze major general, following Yousef Mishleb, who served in the position from 2003 to 2008.

Before his latest appointment, Abu Rokon led the Defense Ministry’s Border Crossing Authority.

At Thursday’s ceremony, Defense Minister Avigdor Libeman lauded the outgoing Mordechai as a “one-man foreign ministry.”

“I have never encountered someone who was so accepted in the international realm. The State of Israel owes you a great debt,” Liberman said to Mordechai.

From left, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, outgoing liaison to the Palestinians Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, incoming liaison to the Palestinians Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot raise a toast during a ceremony at the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, on March 29, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

The defense minister wished Abu Rokon luck in his new position, saying he was taking over the liaison unit “at a sensitive time when we will need your wealth of experiences and skills.”

Mordechai is seen as widely respected both in Israel and in the Arab world. He will be ending a nearly 40-year career in the Israeli security forces, having served in intelligence units and as spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces. He took over as COGAT in October 2013.

Under Mordechai, the role of COGAT expanded to include working with the international community on Palestinian issues and to cooperate with Palestinians on issues beyond military coordination.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, left, shakes hands with Israel’s outgoing liaison to the Palestinians, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, in a ceremony at the army’s Tel Aviv headquarters, on March 29, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

In his speech, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot noted the unusual nature of the COGAT position, which is technically subordinate to the Defense Ministry — and not the army — but still has a place in the IDF General Staff.

Eisenkot praised Mordechai for his efforts in the West Bank, which he described as a “very complicated and complex arena in which the IDF as an army serves as the sovereign.”

The army chief said he was sure that “Kamil is the right man at the right place, who will bring to the position his enormous experience. He will take the baton from [Mordechai] in a month and continue to lead the coordinator unit with all its complexities.”

Abu Rokon, from the Druze village of Usefiya in the Galilee, had long been in the running to lead the Defense Ministry’s COGAT unit. He served as the deputy commander of the unit in 2001 and was reportedly considered for the leadership post in 2011 by then-IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi, but was passed over in favor of Maj. Gen. (res) Eitan Dangot.

An exact date for the ceremony making Abu Rokon the new head of COGAT has yet to be announced, but the army said it will take place sometime in May.

That is technically after Mordechai’s tenure in the position was supposed to end, but he agreed to stay on until the handover, the Defense Ministry said.

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