Olmert speeks 298.88.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
A group of 68 well-known Israeli authors, academics and retired generals has called on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to open peace negotiations with the Palestinians' Hamas rulers, Syria and Lebanon.
The petition - signed by internationally known novelists Amoz Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, and Nobel Chemistry Prize laureate Aaron Ciechanover - is the first sign of an organized effort to prod Olmert into negotiations since a monthlong war against the Hizbullah militia in Lebanon ended last month.
"We strongly recommend that he make all efforts to reach an arrangement with Syria and Lebanon and the Palestinians," another signatory, former Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat, said Monday. Asked how Israel could negotiate with Hamas when it does not recognize Israel, Lahat replied, "We'll talk to them and then they will recognize us."
The signatories have not yet received a response from Olmert to their request to meet him, Lahat said.
Olmert has refused so far to talk with Hamas until it recognizes Israel, renounces violence and accepts signed peace agreements.
The attempt comes at a time when the public has grown skeptical of peace prospects. The war in Lebanon was sparked by a cross-border attack by Hizbullah on July 14 in which three soldiers were killed and two others kidnapped.
Israelis have also grown more reluctant to talk to Palestinians since Gaza operatives affiliated with Hamas tunneled into Israel on June 25 to attack an army post, killing two soldiers and kidnapping a third.
Since the war in Lebanon, Olmert has postponed a plan to withdraw from large areas of the West Bank, effectively bringing any prospects of progress with the Palestinians to a standstill.
Olmert's government has ruled out peace talks with Syria at this time, accusing it of backing Hizbullah and a hardline Hamas leader. Lebanon is seen as reluctant to open talks with Israel before Syria does.
Olmert's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.