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Exclusive: IDF revives liaison position for peace talks
By YAAKOV KATZ
The Jerusalem Post
11/10/2010

http://www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=194663

Defense officials stress move has no connection with progress of negotiations; position was dismantled after Camp David talks failed.

Ahead of the prospect of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority picking up speed in the near future, Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), has appointed a senior officer to serve as the military-civil bodys liaison to the negotiations.

The position existed in the past but was dismantled almost a decade ago following the failure of the Camp David talks under then-prime minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. It was held by an officer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

Dangot decided to reestablish the position shortly before the relaunch of peace talks several months ago. Defense officials stressed that the appointment of the officer had not been connected to the progress of the talks, which are currently deadlocked in light of Israels refusal to extend the moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank.

The establishment of the post is so the Defense Ministry will be prepared for all developments, a senior ministry official explained. The liaison will be in charge of coordinating between the various government ministries and the negotiating team on civilian issues that affect the Palestinians.

These issues include water and electricity, as well as environmental matters that arise following a possible Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

At this stage, IDF officers are not playing an active role in the negotiations, which are being led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahus envoy Yitzchak Molcho and PA negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Assessments within the defense establishment are that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is working behind the scenes to pressure Netanyahu to agree to an additional construction freeze in the settlements to restart the talks.

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