TEL AVIV, JAN. 28 -- Some of Israel's leading peace activists came out squarely in favor of the Persian Gulf War today, with one asserting that the use of nuclear weapons against Iraqi forces would be more acceptable than the killing of Jews by Iraqi missiles carrying chemical or biological warheads.

Admitting to feeling ill at ease with their bellicose position, a number of prominent Israeli doves said they view "the elimination of the genocidal Iraqi regime {as} an essential condition toward achieving peace" in the Middle East in the long term.

The four speakers, whose views were endorsed by six other leading peace activists, did not, however, advocate Israeli participation in the U.S.-led anti-Iraq coalition.

"It is a sad realization for an old peacenik like myself," said Amos Oz, a novelist and veteran campaigner for territorial compromise with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"For a long time we were used to being called traitors by our own countrymen. Now we are likely to be called traitors by some peace-loving friends because of our position," Oz said during a news conference sponsored by the Tel Aviv-based International Center for Peace in the Middle East.

Even before the gulf war began Jan. 17, Israel's peace movement had been thrown into disarray by the Palestinians' strong support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The country's political left split between advocates of a continued peace dialogue with Arabs in the territories and those who contended that it would be futile to talk with the Palestinians when they were supporting Saddam. An anti-war rally last weekend outside the U.S. Embassy here drew less than two dozen people.

All of today's speakers stressed the importance of engaging the 1.7 million Palestinians in the occupied territories in a peace dialogue after the elimination of Saddam's regime.

But they reflected the disappointment of many Israelis who support negotiations with the Palestinians that surfaced when West Bank Arabs went to the roofs of their houses and cheered as Iraqi missiles flew toward Tel Aviv.

"There is a real, great difference between peaceniks and appeasers and pacifists," Oz said in explaining his support for the war. "In short, I'm a peacenik and not a pacifist. There is one thing worse than violence, and that is giving in to violence."

Yael Dayan, a novelist and the daughter of the late Israeli army war hero and government minister, Moshe Dayan, said the purpose of the news conference was to "disassociate ourselves" from the hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters in Europe, the United States and elsewhere.

"Sometimes there are wars that are necessary in order to attain peace," she said. "The Iraqi aggression is an obstacle to Middle East peace."

Yorum Kaniuk, a prominent Israeli writer and peace activist, said, "When I see this peace movement, I am ashamed . . . We should tell these peace lovers there is nothing to peace at any price. It is totally necessary to destroy the Iraqi war machine."

Oz said that while he has opposed the use of nuclear weapons, he would choose the nuclear option if Israel was faced with a choice between the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Iraq or the mass killing of Jews with chemical weapons.

The other participants in the conference did not challenge Oz, although novelist A. B. Yehoshua, another peace activist, said, "The nuclear question is very delicate, very complicated. We have to be very cautious about using nuclear weapons."