June 22, 2012 - 12:00am

Israeli President Shimon Peres Thursday urged Israel and its foes to put behind a bitter past and look to the future if they desire to achieve peace.

"The past is dead. You can't correct it. Focus on the future. You have to take risks," Peres said during a panel discussion at the fourth Israel Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Risk-taking, said Peres, entails making mistakes: "You do nothing and that is a mistake, or you do something that could cause the mistakes."

"My own conclusion of how not to make mistakes is close your eyes a little. You cannot make love and you cannot make peace with open eyes," the elder statesman explained.

The president disclosed that the first mistake he made during his decades - long career in the civil service was his search for perfection.

"You need to be satisfied with allowing people to live together, " said Peres, whose part in the negotiations that led to the signing of the 1994 Oslo Accords, which set the framework for official dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. "Perfection can be a desire, but we can't achieve it in the foreseeable future."

Among the other speakers on the panel, entitled "Learning from Mistakes on the Way to Tomorrow," were Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, Harvard Professors James Sebenius and Michael Sandel, and Dr. David Agus, director of the Center for Applied Molecular Medicine at the University of Southern California.

Peres said that the greatest challenge of peace - making is not the enemy, but rather criticism from within.

"I am asked 'why are you paying so much? Why do you trust them so much?' Who can measure how much you can trust them?" Peres said, admitting that another mistake he regretted was avoiding negotiations with Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization earlier on.

"They killed our people. We said, 'how can we speak with murderers. It was a mistake. By not talking, they would continue to shoot. But talking, maybe they would have stopped," he said.

The comments came amid one of the worst rounds of violence in the region in months, with Gaza militants firing some 100 rockets and mortar shells into southern Israel over 72 hours and numerous Israeli counter airstrikes killing up to 10 Palestinians, most of them militants.

On Thursday, Israel was reportedly weighing a cease - fire proposal presented by Islamist group Hamas, which earlier this week claimed responsibility for firing many of the projectiles.

The "Facing Tomorrow" conference, an annual event inaugurated by Peres in 2008, draws internationally-acclaimed figures, including past and present policy makers, Nobel laureates, academics and corporate leaders.

A partial list of prominent speakers this year included former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair and Mideast expert and former State Department and White House official Dennis Ross, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems John Chambers, Goldman Sachs' senior investment strategist Abby Joseph - Cohen and revered American psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017