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Prominent Israeli author Amos Oz passes away at 79

While Oz's support of a two-state solution did not win him favours among Israel's far-right, his views of Palestinians were also seen as demeaning
Oz, Israel's best-known author and an outspoken supporter of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, died of cancer at the age of 79 on Friday (AFP)

Amos Oz, Israel's best-known author and an outspoken supporter of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, died of cancer at the age of 79 on Friday, his daughter announced on social media.

Over a 50-year career, Oz's writing won international plaudits, and he was a frequent bookies' favourite for the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Born Amos Klausner in Jerusalem to Eastern European immigrants, Oz moved to a kibbutz at 15 after his mother's suicide. He changed his surname to the Hebrew for "might".

In his later years, Oz, who fought in the 1967 and 1973 wars, taught Hebrew literature at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev while living in the nearby desert town of Arad.

Among his dozens of books, widely translated abroad from Hebrew, was "A Tale of Love and Darkness".

"It was a tale of love and light, and now, a great darkness," Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in a statement. "Rest in peace, dear Amos. You gave us great pleasure."

Oz's death "deprived Israel and the dwindling peace camp of another rarity," Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi tweeted.

The writer's experiences in the army in 1967 and 1973 influenced his advocacy for the creation of a Jewish state of Israel on the one hand, and a Palestinian state on the other - using rhetoric that angered the Israeli far-right.

'Growing extremism'

In recent years, Oz spoke out against the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, shunning official Israeli functions abroad in protest at what he called the "growing extremism" of his country's government.

Netanyahu on Friday celebrated Oz as "among the greatest writers from the state of Israel".

"Despite our diverging views on numerous issues, I have deeply appreciated his contribution to the Hebrew language and the revival of Hebrew literature," the premier said in a statement released by his office.

Oz's views, however, were also denounced as xenophobic and segregationist by a number of Palestinians and their supporters.

"We cannot become one happy family because we are not one, we are not happy, we are not family. We are two unhappy families. We have to divide the house into two smaller next-door apartments," he told Deutsche Welle in an interview marking Israel's 70th anniversary this year.

"There is no point in even fantasising that after 100 years of bloodshed and anger and conflict Jews and Arabs will jump into a honeymoon bed and start making love not war."

The two-state solution much lauded by Oz has remained the main political option brought forward by both Israeli and Palestinian political figures and the international diplomatic community.

However, Palestinians have increasingly pointed out that Israeli policies in the occupied Palestinian territory - including ever expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank - have made such an agreement impossible.

Only a one-state solution, they say, could guarantee the rights and equality of all Israelis and Palestinians.

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