Top COGAT appointees speak no Arabic

Civil Administration appointments criticized for lack of Arabic as job entails daily ties with PA.

humanitarian aid 248.88 (photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
humanitarian aid 248.88
(photo credit: Tovah Lazaroff)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided on Tuesday to appoint Brig.-Gen. Moti Iloz, the deputy OC Central Command, as the new head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. The move comes two weeks after Brig.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, Barak's military secretary, was named as the next Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), in charge of the civil administration. These decisions mean that the two top positions in COGAT - responsible for coordinating civilian issues in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between the government, the Palestinian Authority and the IDF - will be held by officers who do not speak Arabic and are not from Military Intelligence. The current head of the civil administration, Brig.-Gen. Yoav "Poli" Mordechai, has served in the post for the past three years. He previously served as head of the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration as well as in Military Intelligence. Mordechai speaks fluent Arabic and has cultivated a close relationship with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad over the past few years. Iloz, a well-respected officer, rose through the ranks in the Engineering Corps and was commander of the Jordan Valley Brigade in the Central Command. While he has been deputy head of the Central Command for two years, he does not speak Arabic and has yet to serve in a COGAT position. Dangot, a career artillery officer, has been military secretary to a number of defense ministers, including Shaul Mofaz, Amir Peretz and Barak. Like Iloz, he does not speak Arabic. In contrast, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, who Dangont is replacing, as well as his predecessor, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yosef Mishlav, both speak the language fluently and have experience in Military Intelligence. "In recent years, COGAT and the civil administration have turned into extremely important jobs for coordinating diplomatic and humanitarian issues with the PA," said one defense official. "It is a little strange that both of the two most-senior officers cannot speak Arabic." Sources in the Central Command defended the appointment of Iloz and Dangont and said that both were competent officers who, even without knowing Arabic, would likely succeed in their new posts. "This is not the first time that a head of the civil administration or COGAT does not know Arabic," one officer said. Also on Tuesday, Barak decided to open the Jalama checkpoint - between Jenin and the Gilboa region - to civilian traffic. Barak announced the decision after meeting with Jenin District Governor Kadura Musa. Since 2000, Palestinian civilian cars have not been allowed to pass through the checkpoint without a special permit. IDF sources said that the crossing will be opened to Israeli-Arab cars, which until now had to park on the Israeli side of the crossing and then enter into the West Bank by foot. Israeli-Arabs are allowed into Jenin. Barak said that the crossing would open in the coming weeks to 400-500 cars a day.