World leaders, Israeli politicians and civilians from across the political spectrum of Jewish Israelis gathered Friday for the funeral of former president, prime minister, foreign minister and the last surviving member of Israel’s founding generation of leaders, Shimon Peres.
World leaders included US President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, French President Francois Hollande, accompanied by Former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto and others.
Members of the Joint List, Israel’s Arab-majority Knesset faction headed by MK Ayman Odeh, boycotted the funeral, but Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas attended with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
In all, over 90 delegations from 70 countries attended the funeral.
Moti Yogev, a member of the Jewish Home party and frequent critic of Peres’ political stances, acknowledged his deep-rooted political differences with Peres regarding land-for-peace negotiations with the Palestinians. But he also cited Peres’ unique personality, especially during his tenure as president, as well as his enormous contributions to Israel.
During the years following Israel’s independence, Peres was largely responsible for building the country’s air force, and later the country’s nuclear reactor in Dimona. Yogev also recalled that following the Six Day War, Peres was an early supporter of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, although his position on that issue changed later in life.
‘A Living Connection to the Jewish People’
“Yes, I was critical of his politics, even sharply critical,” Yogev said. “But he had a living connection to the Jewish people, living in its land.”
Thursday, some 50,000 Israelis visited the Knesset plaza in Jerusalem as Peres lie in state outside the building that was his political home for more than 50 years. The crowd was a fraction of the million-person turnout that police and Knesset security officials had prepared for, but served as a prelude to the country’s biggest funeral since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995.
“What he tried to do for the country was historic,” Eitan Dove, a 65-year-old new immigrant from Pennsylvania, told Tazpit Press Service (TPS). “We may not agree with all his positions, but over all Israel is definitely a better country because he was here. Like any of the founders of Israel, his contribution was phenomenal – I hope the youth and young people understand what that is all about.
By: Andrew Friedman/TPS