Kamil Abu Rokon named Israel’s next military liaison to Palestinians
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Kamil Abu Rokon named Israel’s next military liaison to Palestinians

Defense Ministry's official announcement comes month after minister leaked that the Druze brigadier general had been tapped to replace Yoav Mordechai

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

Brig. Gen. (res.) Kamil Abu Rokon, current head of the Defense Ministry's Border Crossing Authority, named Israel's next military liaison to the Palestinians on December 17, 2017. (Dana Shraga/Defense Ministry)
Brig. Gen. (res.) Kamil Abu Rokon, current head of the Defense Ministry's Border Crossing Authority, named Israel's next military liaison to the Palestinians on December 17, 2017. (Dana Shraga/Defense Ministry)

The Defense Ministry announced that Brig. Gen. (res.) Kamil Abu Rokon would be Israel’s next military liaison to the Palestinians on Sunday, a month after news of the appointment was leaked by Communications Minister Ayoub Kara.

Abu Rokon, who currently leads the Defense Ministry’s Border Crossing Authority, is expected to take over the liaison position, officially known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), from Maj. Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai sometime in late April, the ministry said.

He will also be promoted to the rank of major general.

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.

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, center, speaks with the head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, left, and the chief military liaison to the Palestinians Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, center-left, during a tour of the West Bank on December 6, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

“Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman made the decision following consultation with the IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot,” the ministry said in its statement.

In the announcement, Liberman lauded Abu Rokon as “one of the leading experts in Israel on the Palestinian arena. I am very impressed by his knowledge and experience in managing large networks in his current position as head of the Defense Ministry’s Crossing Authority.”

Abu Rokon, from the Druze village of Usefiya in the Galilee, has 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.

Mordechai, who is seen as widely respected both in Israel and in the Arab world, 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 head of COGAT in October 2013.

“Poli is a strategic asset for the State of Israel. Even after he finishes his position, I am sure that the State of Israel will continue to take advantage of his special skills,” Liberman said.

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.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (l) meets Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav (Poly) Mordechai on August 28, 2017. (COGAT).

An exact date for the ceremony making Abu Rokon the new head of COGAT has yet to be announced, but the ministry said that it will take place “after Independence Day,” which falls on April 18.

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

In November, Communications Minister Kara — Israel’s first Druze minister — accidentally announced Abu Rokon’s appointment, tweeting “I am proud of you, love you and wish you success for the IDF and the State of Israel.”

Communications Minister Ayoub Kara arrives to the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem on June 11, 2017. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Kara, of the Likud party, later deleted his tweet, after the Defense Ministry said the appointment had not been officially approved.

It was not the first time the minister’s social media use got him into trouble.

In February, Kara sparked an international spat when he tweeted that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi had put forward a plan to create a Palestinian state in the Sinai Peninsula as part of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Just over a year ago, then-deputy minister Kara also revealed information in a Facebook video about a security incident that was, at the time, under total military censorship, concerning an Israeli citizen who was being held in an Arab country on murder charges.

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