PM to Replace Fired Envoy Soon

Ad Feedback—JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he will move quickly to replace Amos Gilad, Israel's envoy to Egypt who was fired by Olmert on Monday. Gilad was handling the delicate negotiations with Egypt concerning the opening of border crossings with Gaza, putting an end to Hamas rocket fire on Israeli communities and the freeing of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Gilad lost his job after he made highly critical remarks about the prime minister which were quoted last week in the Israeli newspaper Maariv.  Gilad was extremely upset that Olmert decided very late in the negotiating process to link the issue of opening border crossings with Shalit's release.  In Gilad's view, this was a slap in the face of the Egyptians, who had been laboring for a long time in the negotiations with Hamas.

 Maariv quoted Gilad as saying, "I don't understand what they are trying to do.  Insult the Egyptians?  We've already done that.  This is insanity, simply insanity.  Egypt remains almost our last ally here.  For what?  We are harming national security."

Olmert says that for the time being, Gilad's duties will be taken up by three people:  Olmert's diplomatic advisor Shalom Turgeman, Yuval Diskin, the head of the Shin Bet [Israeli secret service], and Ofer Dekel, who has been involved in the discussions about Shalit.

 Israeli officials are concerned that the timing and severity of the clash between Olmert and Gilad may have hurt the efforts to obtain Shalit's freedom, but Palestinian sources said Monday that significant progress had been made in the talks concerning the Israeli soldier, who has been held captive in the Gaza Strip since June, 2006.

Sources: Maariv, The Jerusalem Post, Ha'aretz

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