Israeli intellectuals petition for contacts with Syria, Hamas

Agence France Presse

Mon Sep 25, 11:24 AM ET

Dozens of Israeli university lecturers, writers and reserve officers have signed a petition calling on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open contacts with Syria and the Palestinians, including Hamas.

Among the 71 signatories were well-known writers Amoz Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, as well as Aaron Ciechanover, who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 2004, and retired general Shlomo Gazit, a former head of military intelligence.

"The war in Lebanon is behind us, but its results have significantly increased the risk of another war: a new war in south Lebanon, a war with Syria or even a conflict involving the Iranian army," said the petition seen by AFP.

"Everything should be done to avoid that," it continued.

The petition urged the prime minister to "examine" any appeal for dialogue emanating from an Arab country and to "sound out the possibility of secret negotiations".

According to the signatories, Israel should act on the "three axes" of Syria, the Palestinians and Lebanon "to consolidate the ceasefire and UN resolution 1701" that ended Israel's recent 34-day war with Shiite militia Hezbollah.

On the Palestinian front, the intellectuals said the idea of talking to officials from the ruling Islamist movement Hamas should not be ruled out.

The petition was delivered to Olmert and five of his cabinet ministers, said Naphtali Raz, a teacher behind the initiative.

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