Shock as Olmert fires his key negotiator

Egyptian-brokered talks in doubt as defence official sacked over policy row

The Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, triggered a political and diplomatic shockwave yesterday by summarily removing Amos Gilad, the defence ministry’s top official, from his leading role in delicately balanced Egyptian-brokered negotiations with Hamas.

The move was in response to angry criticism by Mr Gilad in a newspaper last week after Mr Olmert insisted any ceasefire deal with Hamas would have to await the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal seized in 2006 by Gaza militants.

Mr Olmert’s office issued a formal complaint to the Civil Service Commission seeking disciplinary action against Mr Gilad, for making public his “embarrassing and significantly harmful” criticisms of the government strategy.

At the heart of the row appears to be sharp disagreement between the defence ministry and Mr Olmert over the urgency of a long-term ceasefire in Gaza – which Defence Minister Ehud Barak has promoted – as well as on whether progress on it would help to create the climate for Cpl Shalit’s early release.

Israeli media reported that Mr Gilad would be replaced in the ceasefire talks by Yuval Diskin, the head of the intelligence agency, Shin Bet, and Shalom Turgeman, a senior aide to Mr Olmert. Mr Olmert’s office said negotiations on Cpl Shalit’s release would be unaffected.

Officials close to Mr Olmert have complained that the last six-month ceasefire with Hamas failed to produce any progress for Cpl Shalit. But the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, also complained after Mr Olmert’s intervention – endorsed by the Security Cabinet – that Israel had shifted its negotiating position. Mr Mubarak had suggested that a truce in Gaza could be imminent. In remarks quoted in Maariv last week Mr Gilad hit out at anonymous criticisms made of him by government officials. Mr Gilad insisted he had continually informed Mr Olmert’s office of progress in the talks, and said that the government had “insulted” the Egyptians – “almost our last ally here” – and jeopardised national security by its change of stance.

He said of the ceasefire talks: “The Egyptians have shown extraordinary courage. They’ve given us manoeuvring room, they’re trying to mediate, they’re investing efforts, they’re showing goodwill of a kind they’ve never shown before. What are we thinking? That they work for us?”

Mr Gilad was also critical of Israel’s stance in parallel talks, also Egyptian-brokered, aimed at securing the release of Cpl Shalit in exchange for the release of Hamas prisoners, claiming: “At first we submitted 70 names, and that’s it. Since then, we’ve disappeared. Is that how they want to bring Gilad [back]? Because, if they decide tomorrow to release the prisoners, that very same day we’ll get Gilad.”

The security cabinet last week repeated Mr Olmert’s insistence that Cpl Shalit would have to be released before crossings between Gaza and Israel were fully opened.

The campaign to release Cpl Shalit reacted sharply to the latest developments saying: “It is regrettable… that while an Israeli soldier is rotting in captivity, our leaders are occupied by battles of the ego.”

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said: “This shows the Zionist occupation government has no intention of reaching an agreement on the truce or of concluding a prisoner swap.”

An aide to Mr Barak said Mr Olmert was hurting Israel’s interests by deciding “not to avail himself of Amos Gilad’s abilities and experience”. But an official in Mr Olmert’s office said: “It was totally unprofessional and unseemly for a civil servant to publicly attack his boss.”

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'