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Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asked Israel's ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon on Wednesday to stay at his post for a few more months, more than a year after Livni's predecessor Silvan Shalom tried to replace him.
Ayalon and Shalom were involved in a nasty, soap-opera like spat involving the alleged verbal abuse of Ayalon's wife toward her domestic help, and allegations that Shalom's wife, Judy, was behind the firing of one of Ayalon's top aides because he didn't arrange a photo opportunity for her with the pop icon Madonna.
After meeting in Jerusalem with Ayalon, Olmert and Livni issued a statement saying they had asked Ayalon to remain in Washington for a few more months. Ayalon is currently in the country to take part in governmental meetings with Welch, and was making preparations for his family's return here this summer. He took up his post in Washington four years ago.
Olmert and Livni praised Ayalon and what they said was his "singular contribution to strengthening Israeli-American ties."
This assessment was in stark contrast to what Shalom said in a Channel 2 interview in May 2005.
"With all due respect," Shalom said at the time, "three years is enough. The prime minister has the right to replace the head of the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency], the defense minister has the right to replace the chief of General Staff, and the foreign minister also has a similar right. With all due respect, after three years it is possible to return to Israel, what's the big deal?"
Sources close to Ayalon said there was "poetic justice" in the fact that that Ayalon remained "standing" while Shalom is no longer foreign minister, and former Foreign Ministry director-general Ron Prosor, who was also involved in the saga, has been replaced by Livni.
Diplomatic sources said Olmert and Livni wanted Ayalon to stay on until they could find a suitable replacement. Among those being considered for the post are Absorption Minister Ze'ev Boim and former Jewish Agency chairman Sali Meridor.