Stephen Hawking says Israel must talk to Hamas

LAST UPDATED AT 12:11 ON Tue 27 Jan 2009

Professor Stephen Hawking has made a rare foray into world politics, offering his thoughts on a solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. In an interview on Monday with the Arab television network, Al Jazeera, Hawking said: "If Israel wants peace, it will have to talk to Hamas, like Britain did with the IRA. Hamas are the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people, and cannot be ignored."

The scientist and best-selling author of A Brief History of Time has had an interest in the country since he visited Israel in 2006 as part of a British Council science forum, during which he had a one-on-one with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

But that meeting does not appear to have influenced his views in Israel's favour. "The attack on Gaza is similar to that on Lebanon two years ago," he added. "That killed over 2000, but did not achieve Israel's war aims. I think the assault on Gaza will be equally unsuccessful. A people under occupation will continue to resist in any way it can... Israel's response to the rocket attacks has been quite out of proportion. Almost a hundred Palestinians have been killed for every Israeli. The situation is like that in South Africa before 1990. It cannot continue."

Hawking, who was speaking to Al Jazeera on the same day President Obama chose the Arabic channel Al-Arabiya for his first formal TV interview, did not confine himself entirely to world politics. He also spoke of the benefits his celebrity status had afforded him. "The media appearance I most enjoyed, and that seems to have had the biggest impact, was my cameo on The Simpsons,” he said. “Things like The Simpsons are fun and help to pay for my carers, but my scientific work is what is important to me."
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