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The JTA wire is carrying a report that outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has fired Amos Gilad, his chief negotiator with Egypt and the man responsible both for achieving a ceasefire with Hamas and for securing the release of imprisoned soldier Gilad Shalit.

The reason for the firing was Gilad's public criticism of Olmert's last minute decision to link Shalit's release to the nearly-completed ceasefire deal -- a deal it must be noted which would not only open Gaza's borders to normal commerce for the first time since the Palestinian elections, but would also guarantee the security of Sderot, Ashkelon, and other Israeli border communities from the cross-border rocket fire that provoked last month's horrendous incursion into Gaza.

More on the flip...

Olmert's anger was provoked by an interview Gilad gave with the Hebrew-language daily Ma'ariv.  According to the Jerusalem Post:

In the Ma'ariv story, which appeared on the eve of a critical decision by the security cabinet to link opening the Gaza border crossings to Schalit's release, Gilad was quoted 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."

Shalit's family criticized the decision to fire Gilad, attributing it to "ego games" played by politicians.  According to the Jerusalem Post:

The Campaign for the Return of Gilad Schalit responded harshly to Gilad's suspension, calling the move part of the ego games being played by politicians.

The campaign, active in raising international awareness for Schalit since his kidnapping in June 2006, issued a statement saying, "it is both distressing and worrisome that [while] an Israeli soldier is in captivity, ego games are the issue occupying the attention of our leaders.

"If they would have invested half of the effort that they invest in internal politics to advance the release of Gilad Schalit, he would have been home a long time ago."

Adding to the sense of turmoil and chaos, a source in the Israeli Defense Ministry -- for which Gilad works -- publicly criticized Olmert for the removal and clarified that Gilad

continues to deal with matters related to international sources, including Egypt, on behalf of the defense establishment.

The defense ministry source went on to say

the prime minister's decision not to use Amos Gilad's abilities and experience is his right, but the body being hurt by this is the State of Israel.

Jerusalem Post analyst Herb Keinon considers Gilad perhaps the most powerful man in Israel since his appointment as IDF spokesman in 2002.  In recent years, Gilad has been responsible for what Israelis call the "Egyptian track," the peace negotiations with different Palestinian factions mediated through officials at the Egyptian Foreign Ministry.  According to Keinon, in addition to the Egyptian track,

Gilad was also instrumental in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority and a key interlocutor with the Americans and the Europeans.

Gilad was respected, had decades of experience, and was also considered by his interlocutors to have the trust of the highest echelon of Israel's political pyramid.

Keinon attributes Gilad's fall to a power struggle between Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the waning days of the Olmert administration.  Olmert, forced out of office by a corruption scandal and having presided over two inconclusive, at best, wars (in Lebanon in 2006 and against Gaza last month), is looking to secure his legacy.  At the very least, he wants to lay a foundation for the release of Shalit, whose capture by infiltrators from Gaza in 2006 helped spark the 2006 Lebanon War.  Barak, also concerned about his legacy as his Labor Party has slipped from its once dominant position in Israeli politics to its current fourth-place behind the rabidly racist right wing Yisrael Beiteinu, is more interested in securing a stable middle term peace with Hamas.

Gilad may well have made his controversial comments with the foreknowledge of Barak.  At the very least, Keinon contends that the public nature of his sacking indicates that Olmert was attacking both men, while seeking to shore up his own image with the Israeli public.

Olmert's days, of course, are numbered, and Benjamin Netanyahu, his most likely replacement, is on record as being opposed to any negotiated settlement with any Palestinian entity.  Still, an eighteen-month ceasefire with Hamas in the Kadima government's waning days would greatly improve the possibilities of reaching a lasting peace sometime in the near future.

That possibility now appears to be off the table, victim of political grandstanding and internal strife within the Israeli government.  I only hope the parties responsible for this failure travel personally to Sderot and Ashkelon to explain to the long-suffering civilians why they must continue rushing off to their bomb shelters at all hours of the day and night.

Originally posted to litho on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 05:21 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Makes you wonder whether Olmert (3+ / 0-)

    really wants a deal...He may be maneuvering to punt it to the next PM. This way he looks as if he really tried to free Shalit but would not go down in history as the PM who made the deal with Hamas.

  •  Yet another example of how the old Aba Eban (10+ / 0-)

    saying that "Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity", while perhaps true in many cases, is just as true of Israel, and a clear act of willful projection.

    It's almost like, deep down, Israelis are more frightened of the uncertainties and tradeoffs of peace than they are of the familiarities and sureties of war.

    Which can also be said of many Palestinians, of course.

    It's such a pathological situation all around.

    Good luck Senator Mitchell.

    The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

    by kovie on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 05:33:20 PM PST

    •  That's cause Arabs have inferior weapons (6+ / 0-)

      Let us be honest, the Arabs are negotiating to have their land returned to them while the Israeli's negotiate how much they intend to take away. Clearly the Arabs already had the losing hand in this fight and any talk of missed oppurtunities assumes that the Israeli's were no just bluffing like they have so many times before. Israel says one thing and does another or finds a convient excuse like a missing soldier to justify the collective punishment of 1.4 million people.

      Israel never misses an oppurtunity to stall.

      •  right... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ProfJonathan

        when the arabs rejected the partition in 1947, when they invaded israel in 1948 with the explicit intention to wipe Israel off the map, when they tried again in 1967, when they rejected UN land for peace resolution with their three noes "No peace, no recognition and no negotiations with Israel", when they walked away from a peace proposal in 2000 without even a counter-offer - in all those instances the arabs were merely "negotiating to have their land returned to them while the Israeli's negotiate how much they intend to take away".

        Hmm, what was I thinking? Oh I know, I was actually thinking that those two arab states (Egypt and Jordan) that did negotiate in good faith to get their land back did get every singe inch of it plus tens of  billions of dollars of american aid.

        If someone was sending rockets on my house where my daughters were sleeping at night, I would do everything to stop it. Barack Obama

        by Borat Sagdiyev on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 07:01:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  As I commented just below (0+ / 0-)

          The apparently greater need for some people on (or siding with) one side or the other in this conflict to be "right" rather than to work out differences is a major cause of the ongoing conflict. Neither side is 100% right or wrong, good or bad. They're both to blame, not only for years of conflict, but for the inability or unwillingness to settle it.

          Focusing on "who started it" is the surest way to never end it. Imperfect but lasting peaces as were achieved with Egypt and Jordan are the only way to proceed.

          The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

          by kovie on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 07:16:52 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  I can't even start (2+ / 0-)

          cataloging all the lies and propaganda contained in your comment.  But one, at least, is easily refuted.

          The Palestinians clearly presented a counter-offer in 2000, participating in an ongoing negotiations process that ended only when Barak walked away from the Taba negotiations in January 2001.  In the opinion of the negotiators at Taba, the parties were days away from reaching a final agreement.

      •  Ah, yes, there's always someone (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SadEagle, weasel

        who insists on turning a minor aside into an opportunity for starting yet another pissing contest over "who started it" and is more to "blame" for the latest round of idiocy, a mindset that itself is a big part of why the conflict goes on. So long as there are people more interested in being "right" than in resolving this conflict, it will go on.

        Has it ever occured to you that both sides have been acting idiotically and horribly, regardless of who was "more" idiotic and horrible, especially if you look at the entire span of this conflict over the past 130 years? And was it not immediately apparent to you that I was actually criticizing Olmert and Israeli leaders and thus effectively ageeing with you on your point? Sheesh, talk and seeing what you want to see.

        And Eban was talking about Arab countries in general when he made this statement years ago, not Palestinians specifically, who at the time didn't really have their own internationally recognized representation, and was referring to their unwillingness to recognize Israel under ANY circumstances, be they based on '47, '49, '67, or any other borders. E.g. the infamous "Three No's" of the Khartoum Conference. And at the time that he made this statement, Arab states had much more firepower than Israel and were an actually existential threat to it. They were just incompetent in using it.

        There are, of course, reasonable people on both sides more than willing to negotiate in good faith and compromise where necessary to make peace. It's the idiots and crazies on either side who keep preventing them from doing that. I was referring to the latter.

        Which I thought obvious, stupid me.

        The liberal soul shall be made fat. He who waters shall be watered also himself. (Proverbs 11:25)

        by kovie on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 07:11:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hate to say it but (0+ / 0-)

    you don't piss off your boss.

    Going to the papers and going against his policy is the kiss of death for almost every job in the world.

    •  Clearly (6+ / 0-)

      But you have to wonder why an experienced diplomat like Gilad would want to make such a public criticism of his boss.

      You think maybe he thinks Olmert's linking of Shalit to opening the borders is completely wrong-headed and counterproductive?

      I know other people do -- and Kouchner has also gone public with his criticism of his Olmert.

      •  It really doesn't matter (0+ / 0-)

        How can you negotiate anything when you've placed your side in the position of having to be second-guessed in the press?

        You keep your mouth shut publically, go to the table, do your job, and try to convince your boss he's wrong.

        If you can't convince him, you resign.

        He deserved being fired for speaking out of turn, and not resigning when he couldn't reconcile his position with his boss.

        •  Really? (4+ / 0-)

          Something as important as Shalit HAD to have been central in all strategic discussions. Had it been a sticking point from day one, Galid would have known it. He didn't. It was thrust on him. You don't give a negotiator freedom to discuss things, then spring something as explosive as this at the last minute.

          It says more about Olmert than Galid.

        •  Olmert didn't give him the chance to resign (4+ / 0-)

          instead very publicly calling him out and firing him.

          Looks to me like a government in disarray.  And when you consider the one coming in is likely to be worse than this one...  Unless, of course, you're excited by the prospect of Avigdor Lieberman as Israel's kingmaker...

          •  The minute he went to the press (0+ / 0-)

            he signed his pink slip.

            Tell you what- go to the papers and say your boss doesn't know what he's doing.  Then go to the office, see how long you last.  Even if you try to resign, he'll throw you out on your ass before you can put paper in the printer.

            Imagine if Hillary directly contradicted Obama on a foreign policy point, and took it to the press in an interview.  What sort of outrage do you think that would lead to on DK?

            The problem is, you guys are not looking at this in anything approaching a logical manner.  You are blinded by your political opinions into making what anyone with half a brain would tell you was a foolish leadership move.  Show me one leader worldwide who wouldn't fire the guy after what he did!

    •  Not the point (6+ / 0-)

      Israel isn't a dictatorship. Olmert made a decision that had ramifications both internally and externally. (Shalit's family...Relations with Egypt).

      Galid knew it was stupid. He spoke his mind. Good for him.

      Why did Olmert do what he did? That is the question.

      Egypt now has no excuse but to deal with Hamas after Israel did this.

      •  Yes, that is always the point (0+ / 0-)

        Politicians MAKE policy, their subordinates either carry it out, or resign.

        Going to the press, no matter where you are, is wrong.  you have a problem with your boss, you deal with it between the two of you, never in the press.

        You talk to the papers to explain your resignation, not to attempt to pressure people in charge.

        No matter how ideal his goals, his methods suck.

        •  Nope (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rusty Pipes

          When Olmert sprung this on Gilad, he showed himself to be an ass. Had Olmert been honest and said this was a point from day to Gilad (didn't have to be to everyone) you would have a point. But since Gilad was shocked by this MAJOR point, it shows Olmert had no intentions of giving Gilad a chance to work. Why should Gilad give the ass the time of day.

          We were pissed when all the Bush cronies did that to Bush.

    •  'Your boss': that would be (0+ / 0-)

      the outgoing criminal? Wanted for financial crimes in his own country and crimes against humanity outside it?

      If there's a hell down below, Olmert will be there with Dick Cheney and Co. If we're lucky, we'll also get to see his ugly used car salesman's mug do a little rotting in some dank place here above, too.

      And Dcoronata will be in the limboland where people who should know better countenance evil with bland nonsense like the above.

      ---------------- Cockroach don't business in cockfight; let's let the politicians sell out n' you and I keep fighting for what's right!

      by Matthew Detroit on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 06:17:55 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Funny, coulda sworn the NYTimes (0+ / 0-)

    was claiming just yesterday that Netanyuhu had become a moderate!

    ---------------- Cockroach don't business in cockfight; let's let the politicians sell out n' you and I keep fighting for what's right!

    by Matthew Detroit on Mon Feb 23, 2009 at 06:11:44 PM PST

  •  Olmert is acting (5+ / 0-)

    as though he will remain caretaker PM for some time. Or at least as though coalition negotiations are going to be protracted and new elections (with him rehabilitated) are on the horizon.

    Frankly, Olmert has played his game very well. He ought to have left his position a few months ago, yet he still has executive power well past his due date.

  •  Thanks for the diary, litho! n/t (0+ / 0-)

    "Trolling is a sad reality of internet life...Directly replying to the content of a trollish message is usually a waste of time"

    by Rusty Pipes on Tue Feb 24, 2009 at 11:48:10 AM PST

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