World leaders attend funeral of the former Israeli president. Mahmud Abbas is in Israel for the first time since 2010, Hamas reacts negatively launching protest. Egypt and Jordan send representatives. Pope Francis expresses sadness over the death of a “man of peace”.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – World leaders gathered in Jerusalem for the funeral of former president and two-time prime minister Shimon Peres who died on Wednesday at the age of 93.
They include US President Barack Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the prime ministers of Canada, Australia, Italy and the Netherlands, the presidents of Germany, France, and the European Union, the NATO Secretary General, as well as the King of Spain and Prince Charles, but above all, in the front row, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
For the Palestinians leader, this was the first time in six years in Jerusalem. At a present, peace talks between Israel and Palestine are frozen and the prospect of a two-state solution appears increasingly remote.
Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, slammed Abbas’s decision to attend the funeral, calling for a day of rage in the Territories.
What the former Israeli president could not achieve in the latter part of his political life, peace and conciliation, he was able to reach in his death, namely today’s historic handshake (pictured) between Netanyahu and Abbas in Jerusalem.
The Palestinian leader, who lead a delegation of senior officials, was back in Israel for the first time since 2010. As a negotiator for the Palestinians, Abbas is one of the Palestinian leaders who backed the 1993 Oslo Accords, which saw Peres, described as a “complex personality” in favour of a practical peace for Israel's security, share the Nobel peace Prize the following year with Arafat and Rabin.
Palestinian sources indicate that the Palestinian leader wanted to be present at the funeral to send "a strong signal" to Israeli society that Palestinians "are in favour of peace " and "appreciate the efforts" of a "brave" partner for peace like Shimon Peres.
During their handshake the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian president exchanged a few words. "Good to see you. Long time," Abbas said. Netanyahu replied, "It's something that I appreciate very much on behalf of our people." This was their first handshake since a Paris climate meeting last November.
Earlier on Friday, Mr Peres' coffin was escorted by a military honour guard from the parliament building in Jerusalem to Mount Herzl, Israel's national cemetery, where he was laid to rest alongside many of the country's former leaders.
Both Egypt and Jordan, the only two Arab nations that signed a peace agreement with Israel, also sent representatives.
More than 8,000 officers have been deployed for the security operation as thousands of people were expected to attend the funeral.
The funeral was expected to be the largest such event in Israel since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish settler in 1995.
Pope Francis also paid tribute to the late Israeli leader, who died following a stroke on 13 September, noting his “tireless efforts in favour of peace”.
In a telegram to current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, the pontiff said “I hope that his memory and many years of service will inspire us all to work with ever greater urgency for peace and reconciliation between peoples.”
Fondly recalling Peres’s visit to the Vatican, the Holy Father said that “his legacy will truly be honoured and the common good for which he so diligently laboured will find new expressions, as humanity strives to advance on the path towards enduring peace.
Finally, “With the assurance of my prayers for all who grieve, especially for the Peres family, I invoke the divine blessings of consolation and strength upon the nation.”