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At 60, Israel's never-ending struggle for security

On May 7, Israelis began celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. Soon, Palestinians will mark the nakba, or catastrophe.

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Horev says he wasn't involved in any such missions. "When Arabs from other countries started to operate here, their bases were the villages. Some people left because they were scared. Some were promised they could come back," he says. He thinks Israel's mistake was signing the armistice agreement with Jordan in 1949, which meant agreeing to a cease-fire line without an actual border. It invited more attacks, he says. Such questions of cease-fires versus real peace touch on Israel's dilemma in negotiations with the Palestinians today. Hamas, which won the last Palestinian elections, says it supports a period of calm with Israel, but will never recognize it.

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In his mid-80s, Horev is optimistic about the progress of his country, which in his lifetime has moved from the margins to modernism. He grew up in a place famous for exporting oranges and today lives in a hub of high-tech. But he believes the conflict has become even more complicated than it was 15 years ago. When his old friend Mr. Rabin decided on the Oslo "experiment" in 1993, Horev supported it because the conflict seemed solvable in territorial terms. Now, he believes, too, many people across the Middle East view this as a battleground of religious ideology, of the Islamic East against the Judeo-Christian West.

"The war ended. But since then, we didn't have a year of peace," Horev says. "I thought we were closer to peace 40 years ago than we are today. Look how far away we are from this handshake," he says of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. "I don't believe that we can get to this two-state solution President Bush is promising in 2008, this two-state solution which I myself support."

Such sentiments seem to echo the Israeli public's feeling overall as it turns the corner toward a new decade. According to the April issue of the War and Peace Index, a Tel Aviv University survey released Tuesday, 70 percent of Israeli Jews do not believe in the chances of reaching a deal with the Palestinians despite renewed peace talks. And yet, the same pollsters found that 70 percent also support the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Horev's son, Yehiam, named for one of his father's fallen comrades, is a few months older than the state of Israel. He lives just down the road from his parents, fought in Israel's 1967 and 1973 wars, and is the father of three sons. The youngest of them is almost 16 and will in two years be drafted into the army, like his older brothers before him. Yehiam is not sure he can expect things to be any different for his sons, in terms of the wars they may yet be asked to fight.

"We're not in the same mood we were 20 or 30 years ago," says Yehiam Horev. "The country has grown in incredible ways. But we have a feeling that some of the leaders are not as we expect them to be. And we're still in the stage of fighting our neighbors. The future will hopefully be better than it was." He is quiet for a moment, and then frowns. "But as long as they keep fighting between themselves, and showing that they do want the whole area, there won't be peace."