Ofer Dekel, the Prime Minister's Office emissary heading Israel's efforts to
secure the release of its missing and captive soldiers, asked to be relieved of his duties, saying he has manned the position for the past two and a half years and needs to move on.
Dekel relayed the request during a private audience with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about
two weeks ago.
The special emissary reportedly asked former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to
leave his post, but agreed to the latter's request to stay on until the elections.
Netanyahu expressed his regret at Dekel's decision, saying he admired the latter's devotion: "Ofer Dekel has dedicated his days and nights to the most important of missions and all without compensation, as a volunteer."
Dekel served as Olmert's envoy during the negotiations with Hizbullah regarding
the retrieval of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev's remains,
and has been intimately involved in Israel's efforts to secure the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit from
Unofficial sources familiar with the ins and outs of the Shalit case told Ynet that the captive's family was displeased with the way Dekel was handling the negotiations.
Shortly after Netanyahu took office, sources in the Prime Minister's Office suggested that the he may prefer naming one of his own confidants to the case.
The negotiations on Shalit's release have been deadlocked for several weeks. Egypt,
which is trying to broker a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and Hamas, has been attempting to reignite the talks, but so far to no avail.
Members of the Shalit family told Ynet that they heard of Dekel's decision from the media and that they were grateful for all he has done on behalf of their son.
"We expect the prime minister to do everything he can to get Gilad back," said Shimshon Liebman, who heads the Shalit Friends campaign. "We know the serving prime minister has the ultimate authority in the matter and we await his decisions."
Ahiya Raved contributed to this report