Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan asserted that the Arab Spring and changes taking place in the region could have a positive effect on Israel's chances to improve its relations with Arab states, speaking on a panel at the Presidential Concerence in Jerusalem Wednesday.

"The radicals in the Arab League are no longer there and a range of mutual interests that require regional cooperation provide an incredible opportunity for fostering peaceful relations," Dagan said.

Also discussing prospects for peace, albeit with the Palestinians, was
former US ambassador and Mideast peace envoy Dennis Ross, who while saying that both Israelis and Palestinians have lost faith in the other's commitment to a two-state solution, prescribed steps both sides can take to reestablish that belief.

"Confidence is something that when it's lost, you have to restore it. But this isn't a case of lost confidence, this is a loss of belief," he said at the Presidential Conference in Jerusalem.

Watch live video from the conference here

He outlined six steps Israel could take to restore belief it is committed to a two-state outcome, most of which involved making visible preparations for the eventual evacuation of settlements and increasing Palestinian authority within the various areas of the West Bank.

Palestinians, he said, must change the way they talk about Israel, starting with putting on official Palestinian Authority maps in textbooks and websites. In addition, the PA should begin talking about the Jewish people's connection to the land and Jerusalem, in addition to discussing the difficult decisions peace would require of themselves.

Ashkenazi: Israel must maintain military power

Also speaking at the conference Wednesday morning was former IDF chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, who highlighted what he said is the primary challenge facing Israel in the near future.

Israel's main challenge, he said, is maintaining its relative military power through the social and economic challenges facing the country.

That he said, includes issues such as expanding the public's participation in civil and military service, although he departed from calls to enlist all eligible 18 year olds into the IDF.

Not everyone should serve in the IDF, but the IDF should choose who it wants to draft, he explained. "Everyone should go to a virtual intake base and the IDF should have a right of first refusal," adding that those not drafted should serve in the ambulance or police services, including the Arab public.

"I don't see why someone can be a doctor or pharmacist but cannot volunteer with Magen David Adom," Ashkenzi said of the Israeli Arab public.

Addressing the Iranian threat, the former chief of staff said the best strategy is to do everything we can to slow down or stop the Iranian nuclear program before the threshold of war is reached. Doing so, he continued, should include "painful sanctions and credible threats of military action."


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