A number of former Israeli army and security officials have told the government they support indirect talks with Hamas and are opposed to any large-scale military assault on the Gaza Strip, a press report said on Sunday.
The officials sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other top ministers urging indirect negotiations to reach a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, the Islamist movement which seized control of Gaza almost a year ago, according to Israeli daily Haaretz.
"Recognizing that ending the Hamas regime in Gaza is not a realistic goal and that reinstating Fatah in the Gaza Strip by means of Israeli bayonets is not desirable... non-public negotiations should take place with Hamas through Egypt or anyone else acceptable to both sides," they wrote.
Signatories include ex-Mossad head Ephraim Halevi, former army chief Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and the former commander of Israeli troops in Gaza, Shmuel Zakai.
The defense chiefs said a major military operation in Gaza, an impoverished sliver of land that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, would involve heavy losses on both sides and end with a ceasefire in any case.
Opposition left-wing lawmaker Yossi Beilin, one of the architects of the 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestinians, also endorsed the indirect talks, which should also lead to the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian commandos in 2006.
Lipkin-Shahak told Haaretz that the letter had been sent a month ago, acknowledging that Israel is now talking with Egypt about a possible Gaza truce with Palestinian factions including Hamas.
The development came as Olmert declared on Sunday that Israel was "close" to deciding on how to respond to continued rocket attacks from the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.
Egypt has been acting as mediator because Hams and Israel do not have any direct contacts.
"In my opinion it is correct to speak with Eygpt to reach a ceasefire with Hamas on the condition that it includes all the organizations in the Strip and does not apply to the West Bank," Lipkin-Shahak told Haaretz.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Mayıs 2008, 13:11