Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors is closer than ever - that was the message of guests at Abie Natan's 80th birthday celebration held east of Tel Aviv Sunday night.
In 1966, Natan flew his private plane to Egypt, becoming the first Israeli to visit the country outside of hostilities, some 13 years before the 1979 Egypt - Israel peace deal was signed.
In the early 1970s, Natan acquired his own boat, named it the 'Peace Ship,' and docked it five kilometers off the coast of Tel Aviv. By 1973, Natan was using the boat to host his 'Voice of Peace' pirate radio station, and began broadcasting in Hebrew and Arabic to Israel and Arab states. John Lennon's 'Give Peace a Chance' was often broadcast from the ship.
Illicit meetings with PLO representatives in the 1980s landed Natan in jail, one of a number of periods behind bars.
On Sunday night, Natan celebrated his 80th birthday with friends and supporters. He was flanked by Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Meretz Chairman Yossi Beilin.
'There won't be a war this summer'
Speaking to Ynetnews, Peres said that Natan's "dream of peace is alive and well. And it will be achieved."
"We owe you a major debt of gratitude," Peres told Natan. "You showed us what one man can do alone. You made us something different, something more important. I am convinced your dream will come true. It is a dream that has no alternative, not among us, and not among our neighbors," he added.
Speaking to Ynetnews, Beilin said that Natan's ambitions were "closer than ever" to being realized.
"All of the Arab countries are willing to make peace with us," Beilin said. "Peace is within touching distance."
"When Abie first went to Egypt, it was a crazy act. This wasn't an easy feat. Now we have peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan," he added.
Asked whether tensions with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran cast a shadow over hopes for peace, and whether rumors of a summer war were justified, Beilin said: "There won't be a war this summer. It’s also up to us to ensure such a war won't take place."