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OVIEDO, Spain - Author Amos Oz, who was recently invited to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, says he does not trust the country's current political leadership and that it does not have the courage to reach an agreement with the Palestinians. Oz refused to comment directly on his meeting with Olmert, which was brokered by MK Haim Oron of Meretz, but he praised the prime minister for publicly advocating a two-state solution to the conflict.

Nevertheless, Oz believes Israel's government is acting like a doctor who refuses to carry out a critical operation, even though the patient is willing.

"Despite the fact that the public is not dancing in the streets, it is ready for a solution based on the Clinton plan, the Taba Accords and the Geneva Initiative," Oz said, warning that it would be a "catastrophe" to miss out on the opportunity offered by the Annapolis summit and the rift between Fatah and Hamas.

Oz called on the cabinet to agree to a cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, noting that Israel has observed cease-fires and truces with Arab states. He said that even though Hamas does not want peace negotiations with Israel, a cease-fire would make it easier for Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to advance the negotiations and reach an agreement with Israel.

Oz expressed reservations about the threats to attack Iran's nuclear facilities and suggested instituting a policy of mutual deterrence. He pointed out that no one was suggesting an attack on Pakistan, a problematic Islamic state that already has nuclear weapons.

"In another 15 years everyone will have nuclear arms, and the balance of terror will remove the threat of nuclear attack," Oz said.

Speaking with Haaretz a few hours before receiving the 2007 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters in this northern Spanish city, Oz suggested that organized tours of the Spanish cities where Jewish heritage flourished be arranged for Israeli teens so they could learn that Europe is not only a place of persecution and exile for Jews.

He criticized the way in which Israeli school tours of Poland are carried out.

"I am sorry that these trips have been turned into [opportunities for] nationalistic education. I wouldn't permit visits to the concentration camps unless they were combined with meetings with youths, educators and Righteous Gentiles, and with visits to Jewish population centers, where a rich culture grew for a thousand years. What would we say if, after we reach peace with the Arab states, young Arabs were to visit Deir Yassin and return home?"