For the past eighteen years, the U.S. security coordinator (USSC) has played an important role in mediating between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, making possible the cooperation that has allowed the IDF to stymie terrorism in the West Bank and prevent the Palestinian Authority (PA) from being toppled by Hamas or other groups. But because of 2017 legislation requiring the Pentagon to reduce its overall number of generals, the U.S. plans to replace the three-star general currently in the position with a colonel. Shira Efron and Ghaith al-Omari caution against such a move:
Since its establishment in 2005, the USSC has been one of the rare successes of U.S. Israeli-Palestinian policy. It helped rebuild the Palestinian security sector after the second intifada, elevated Israeli-Palestinian security coordination to unprecedented levels, and has advised the PA on security-sector reform. Part of this success can be directly attributed to the fact that the mission has been led by a succession of three-star U.S. generals, whose seniority allowed them access to civilian and military officials in Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah.
In a region where symbolism is highly important, where U.S. partners are anxious about being left behind, [it] should not be underestimated—nor should the negative symbolism of downgrading the mission. Beyond symbolism, the core aspects of the USSC’s mandate require engagement by a high-level officer.
In addition to mediation, the USSC needs to be of sufficient seniority to be able to engage on a peer-to-peer level with Palestinian and Israeli security and military leaders and their civilian superiors. Put bluntly, an American colonel would not command the requisite level of deference and would not be able to engage effectively either an Israeli or a Palestinian military leader, such as the IDF chief of staff, let alone relevant ministers.