New liaison to Palestinians sworn in, says challenges ‘more complex than ever’
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New liaison to Palestinians sworn in, says challenges ‘more complex than ever’

Kamil Abu Rokon, second Druze officer to hold position of Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, replaces ‘national asset’ Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai

Outgoing Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai (R), his successor Kamil Abu Rokon (L) and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (C), at a swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank on May 1, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
Outgoing Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai (R), his successor Kamil Abu Rokon (L) and Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (C), at a swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank on May 1, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

NABI SAMUEL, West Bank — Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon was sworn in as Israel’s new military liaison to the Palestinians on Sunday, saying that the IDF faces challenges that are “more complex than ever.”

Abu Rokon replaced Maj. Gen. Yoav “Poli” Mordechai, who held the position, officially known as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), for the past four years and three months.

At his installation ceremony, Abu Rokon said: “The challenges we face are more complex than ever. Our goal here is clear. COGAT is part of the IDF system to strengthen the security of Israel.”

“If we look southward, it seems that Gaza poses a real challenge. We understand the significance of the humanitarian deterioration in the Gaza Strip. We will protect our border and protect the citizens of Israel,” he added.

Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon (Courtesy)

Abu Rokon said that “there will be no change in Israel’s policy toward Gaza” until the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 war with the Hamas terror group which rules the Strip, are returned.

“Hamas understands that it must divert the frustration of the Gazans to the border with Israel, otherwise it will find itself in trouble after a decade of destruction and its failure to provide for the Gaza Strip and its inhabitants,” he said of the weekly border protests organized along the Gaza Border.

Abu Rokon, who previously led the Defense Ministry’s Border Crossing Authority, will be the second Druze military liaison to the Palestinians and the second-ever Druze major general in the IDF, the first being Yousef Mishleb, who held the same position from 2003 to 2008.

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)

A resident of the town of Isfiya in the Galilee, Abu Rokon 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.

Mordechai will be ending a 36-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 January 2014.

“The lives of the Palestinians are deeply intertwined with those of Israelis,” Mordechai said during Tuesday’s ceremony, adding that “the dependence is enormous and even can be defined as Siamese twins.”

I am thankful for every position I held, everywhere, in Israel and outside it. But more than anything, I am full of respect for the people I met along the way.”

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (R), Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot (2R), outgoing Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai (3R), together with his successor Kamil Abu Rokon (L), at a ceremony in the West Bank on May 1, 2018. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)

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.

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman hailed Mordechai Tuesday as “not just COGAT, but also a diplomatic adviser and an ambassador. Such a national asset can’t be given up and we will need you for new missions and challenges.”

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot also praised and thanked Mordechai for his time in his latest role and for his decades in the army, saying: “You have contributed a great deal to the fulfillment of the IDF’s responsibility, showing deep understanding, sensitivity, and relentless determination to promote the security of the State of Israel.”

Speaking to Abu Rokon, Eisenkot said his responsibility was big, “but I have no doubt that you are capable of successfully handling it.”

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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