CAIRO, Egypt - Israel's celebration of 60 years of independence is clearly more bitter than sweet for Arabs, who refer to the 1948 war marking their defeat as "Al Nakba," or "The Catastrophe."
While the anniversary of the birth of the Israel represents the fulfillment of a dream for Jewish people, for many Arabs it is a day of remembrance for the estimated 700,000 Palestinians who were forced to flee their homeland as a result of the Arab loss.
Several wars and peace agreements later, Arabs want peace, but view Israel with mistrust, as a belligerent nation that talks peace but actively works to deny the Palestinians a viable state.
Israel's plan for A-list independence anniversary celebrations has rankled many Arab observers. President Bush is expected to attend anniversary celebrations in Jerusalem next week, along with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and current envoy for the International Quartet, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and a host of other leaders of countries from Burkina Faso to Ukraine.
"While Israel will be showered with words of admiration and congratulations, principally by those countries that helped create it, the Palestinians will be huddled together in exile or under military occupation," wrote one editorialist in the Saudi daily Arab News.
That anger extends to the man who is often seen as Israel's staunchest ally - Bush - who is expected to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt after the festivities in Israel.
"Syrians feel offended that President Bush will be received warmly in Arab countries at a time when Gazans are killed, surrounded, jailed and tortured," said Thabet Salem, a Syrian journalist.
Israel's anniversary comes at a time of increasing frustration with the Middle East peace process. Even Egypt and Jordan, Israel's two main Arab partners, are hugely disappointed that successive peace agreements have not led to wider regional stability.
"People were thrilled when they signed a peace treaty," Ica Wahbeh, managing editor of the Jordan Times daily newspaper, said of the 1994 deal signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan. "They [thought we] would have peace and economic prosperity."
Instead, Wahbeh said, many Jordanians have grown tired of the lack of progress. "So many years on, nothing has happened and nothing appears to be happening. They are frustrated."
Salama Ahmed Salama, an EgyptianÂ editorialist, echoed Wahbe's comments, "Peace with Israel has not met expectations to establish a more peaceful environment," said Salama. As a result, he said, many in the Arab world "look at Israel's strategic or national motives with suspicion."
Salama believes Egyptians are also frustrated with decades of failed peace negotiations with Israel. While people don't want war, they would like to see a strong Egyptian government that was capable of delivering concrete results in the peace process, while not caving in to U.S. pressure.
While many are frustrated by the lack of political progress, peace partners and enemies alike also fear Israel's nuclear and conventional military advantage and readiness to attack. "Israel is not a threat to Jordan. But look what it is doing by proxy: The U.S. is threatening Iran and Syria - and everybody is blaming Israel," said Wahbeh. She added that Israel's military capability has led to a "vicious circle that doesn't help anyone."
Likewise, Salama believes people must question Israel's intent when it conducts raids in Syria or invades Lebanon, and he finds it hard to see the Jewish nation as a "peaceful entity." He believes that U.S. mediation attempts have failed because Israel isn't interested in negotiation, but only "tries to achieve goals by military force and power."
That threat of military force is acutely felt in Lebanon, where Hannah Anbar, associate publisher of the Daily Star newspaper in Beirut, says fear of Israel is "ever present in daily life."
"It is a country that has attacked Lebanon in one way or another five or six times, in addition to daily reconnaissance flights over Lebanon," said Anbar. "So it's not like it is something that is in our imagination."
In addition to the fears created by Israel's military strength, the regional arms race has taken an indirect toll on neighboring countries, which have invested heavily in defense rather than much needed development. For example, Syria once spent up to 75 percent of its budget on defense and now spends 40 percent, according to Salem.
In Egypt, successive wars have also sapped the nation's resources. Dr. Abdel Moneim Said, Director of the Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies in Cairo, believes that the border tension with Israel has taken its toll on society - making it "much more militarized than necessary."
Also a convenient distraction
Some feel the perceived threat from Israel has given leaders a convenient excuse to exert control with an iron fist and resist democratic reform.
"This tragedy has been the crux of the problems in the whole Middle East. All the revolutions, coup d'etats, lack of democracy is because we have an enemy called Israel - so everything is being put on hold," said Anbar of the Daily Star.
Others believe that anger at Israel has inspired Islamic militancy and made it harder to contain.
"Young men can be easily recruited," said Wahbeh. "They find an enemy and fixate on it, and Israel doesn't help. The U.S. and Israel are interchangeable."
At least, a shared desire for peace
But despite hard-bitten cynicism toward Israel, even its most outspoken adversaries recognize the need for peace. "Syrians are known to be relentless," said Salem. "But over the years the mood has changed. They prefer peace to war. Not to mean they accept Israel as a state, but they prefer peace definitely. They have changed their views drastically."
More on Israel's 60th anniversary:
World Blog: Israel at 60 - a land of contradictions
SLIDESHOW: As Israel turns 60, a look at the country's turbulent past
CNBC Special Report: Israeli industry at 60