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Monday, February 23, 2009

Shalit deal causes controversy in Israel

Mon, 23 Feb 2009 09:19:24 GMT | PressTV

Israel's top negotiator in the peace talks Amos Gilad
The Israeli premier suspends Israel's emissary to Egypt, Amos Gilad, after recent remarks over fulfilling Hamas' conditions for truce.

Major General Amos Gilad, head of the Israeli Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, was suspended from his position as Israel's special emissary to Egypt following a heated clash with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Last week.

Amos Gilad criticized the government's handling of indirect truce talks with Hamas, Israel Radio reported on Monday.

Last week, Gilad, Israel's top negotiator in talks with Egypt on a Gaza truce, criticized Tel Aviv for linking Gaza truce to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, saying the last moment condition disturbs the peace process.

Gilad was quoted as harshly slamming the prime minister, after Ehud Olmert demanded that Shalit be released before Israel signs a truce agreement.

Gilad claimed that Olmert had not engaged in the issue until that point and had suddenly changed his mind.

In remarks quoted by the Maariv daily, Gilad said that conditioning the opening of the border-crossings to Shalit's release may come at the expense of Egypt's support for Israel, adding that the new Olmert's stance damaged the chances to reach an agreement which would secure Shalit's release and bring about a ceasefire.

"I don't understand what it is that they're trying to do, to insult the Egyptians? We've already insulted them. It's madness. It's simply madness. Egypt has remained almost our last ally here", Gilad said.

Gilad refused to apologize to Olmert over remarks he made to the media about the prime minister. As a result the Prime Minister's Office filed a complaint against Gilad with the Civil Service Commission.

Gilad's refusal to apologize worsened the conflict. The rift became wider after Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed support for Gilad in a statement, Ynet reported.

Barak's statement said that "the defense establishment believes we should focus on advancing Gilad Shalit's release and utilizing the achievements of Operation Cast Lead instead of intra-governmental disputes."

The statement went on to say that "Major General Amos Gilad is a dedicated and outstanding civil servant who has contributed to the State's security for dozens of years and is known for his seriousness, responsibility and integrity."

"It's a shame that in the last days of his government, the prime minister chose an extreme way of attacking and attempting to exercise the full rigor of the law with a dedicated and excellent civil servant", Ynet quoted Barak in the statement as saying.

Olmert says that Israel would not agree to any ceasefire without the release of Gilad Shalit as Hamas also insists that the release of Shalit be negotiated as part of a separate prisoner exchange.

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