JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended his pointman for the Gaza truce talks in Egypt after he launched a scathing tirade against the outgoing premier last week.
“The prime minister decided to suspend Amos Gilad from his functions as negotiator with Egypt as he no longer enjoys his confidence,” a senior government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The move came several days after Gilad, a senior defence ministry official who has shuttled between Egypt and Israel for weeks, blasted Olmert for changing his position in talks to forge a lasting Gaza truce with Hamas.
“Gilad had a sensitive role as he carried negotiations with Egypt on a truce and the liberation of (captured Israeli soldier) Gilad Shalit, but unfortunately his behaviour, in particular an interview given last week to the daily Maariv, lost him the confidence of his superiors,” the official said.
Contacts with Egypt on the truce and a prisoner exchange for Shalit will be continued by a senior official from the prime minister’s office, he said.
Gilad lashed out at Olmert in remarks published in the Maariv tabloid newspaper last Wednesday over efforts to turn ceasefires that ended the December-January Gaza war into a lasting truce.
“Until now the prime minister hasn’t involved himself at all. Suddenly, the order of things has been changed. Suddenly, first we have to get Gilad. I don’t understand that. Where does that lead, to insult the Egyptians? To make them want to drop the whole thing? What do we stand to gain from that?”
Gilad warned that the new Israeli position risked alienating Egypt, which was the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with the Jewish state in 1979.
“I don’t understand what it is that they’re trying to do,” Maariv quoted Gilad as telling a close associate. “To insult the Egyptians? We’ve already insulted them. It’s madness. It’s simply madness. Egypt has remained almost our last ally here.”
A defence ministry spokeswoman told AFP: “The prime minister is within his rights to rid himself of Amos Gilad’s services, but it is the state of Israel that is lesser for it.
“Gilad will continue to maintain ties with officials abroad, including in Egypt, for the defence ministry,” she added.