Lead­ers hail legacy of Shi­mon Peres

Malta Independent - - WORLD -

World lead­ers have hailed the vi­sion of the late Is­raeli leader, Shi­mon Peres, as he is laid to rest days af­ter his death at the age of 93.

Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu de­scribed him as “a great man of the world”, as he led the eu­lo­gies.

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama said the pres­ence of Pales­tinian leader Mah­moud Ab­bas at the funeral was a re­minder of the “un­fin­ished busi­ness of peace”.

Mr Ab­bas was among dozens of for­eign dig­ni­taries at­tend­ing in Jerusalem.

Se­cu­rity was in­ten­si­fied ahead of the cer­e­mony, with sev­eral peo­ple ar­rested.

De­liv­er­ing an emo­tional ad­dress, Mr Ne­tanyahu said that while Is­rael and the world grieved for Mr Peres there was hope in his legacy.

“Shi­mon lived a life of pur­pose,” he told thou­sands gath­ered at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl ceme­tery.

“He soared to in­cred­i­ble heights. He swept so many with his vi­sion and his hope. He was a great man of Is­rael.

“He was a great man of the world.”

Former US Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who helped ne­go­ti­ate the Oslo peace ac­cords be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans in the 1990s, said he was Is­rael’s “big­gest dreamer”.

“He imag­ined all the things the rest of us could do. He started life as Is­rael’s bright­est stu­dent, be­came its best teacher and ended up its big­gest dreamer.’’

US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama closed the eu­lo­gies, com­par­ing Mr Peres to “some of the other gi­ants of the 20th Cen­tury that I’ve had the hon­our to meet, like Nel­son Man­dela and Her Majesty Queen Eliz­a­beth”.

Mr Peres, he said, be­lieved in equal­ity for Pales­tini­ans.

“Even in the face of ter­ror­ist at­tacks, even af­ter re­peated dis­ap­point­ments at the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble, he in­sisted that as hu­man be­ings Pales­tini­ans must be seen as equal in dig­nity to Jews and must there­fore be equal in self de­ter­mi­na­tion.

Be­fore the cer­e­mony be­gan, Mr Ab­bas was seen shak­ing hands and speak­ing briefly with Mr Ne­tanyahu. The last sub­stan­tial pub­lic meet­ing be­tween the two lead­ers was in 2010, with peace ef­forts com­pletely sus­pended since April 2014.

Ha­mas, the hard­line Pales­tinian group that runs Gaza, con­demned Mr Ab­bas’s de­ci­sion to at­tend the cer­e­mony.

Mr Ab­bas, along with Mr Peres,

was one of those who signed the Oslo peace ac­cords in 1993, in the pres­ence of Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin.

Mr Peres, Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat were jointly awarded the No­bel Peace Prize in 1994 “for their ef­forts to cre­ate peace in the Mid­dle East”. All three have now died.

Mr Peres’ rep­u­ta­tion in the re­gion is com­pli­cated by the 1996 shelling of Qana in south­ern Le­banon that killed more than 100 peo­ple who were shel­ter­ing in a UN com­pound.

It hap­pened when, as prime min­is­ter, he or­dered an of­fen­sive against a wave of rocket fire by the mil­i­tant Hezbol­lah move­ment.

He later said it was a “bit­ter sur­prise” to find that sev­eral hun­dred peo­ple were in the camp at the time.

Mr Peres’ cof­fin was ear­lier 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.

Jor­dan and Egypt - the only two Arab coun­tries to have signed peace deals with Is­rael - both sent of­fi­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tives to the cer­e­mony.

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 na­tion­al­ist in 1995.

Mr Peres suf­fered a stroke two weeks ago and died on Wed­nes­day, aged 93, in a hos­pi­tal near Tel Aviv.

Other world dig­ni­taries who are at­tend­ing in­clude:

• Mal­colm Turn­bull, Prime Min­is­ter, Aus­tralia

• Justin Trudeau, Prime Min­is­ter, Canada

• Don­ald Tusk, Pres­i­dent, Euro­pean Coun­cil

• Fran­cois Hol­lande, Pres­i­dent, France

• Joachim Gauck, Pres­i­dent, Ger­many

• Mat­teo Renzi, Prime Min­is­ter, Italy

• Gen Nakatani, former De­fence Min­is­ter, Ja­pan

• Jawad Anani, se­nior min­is­ter, Jor­dan

• En­rique Pena Ni­eto, Pres­i­dent, Mex­ico

• Jens Stoltenberg, Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, Nato

• Mark Rutte, Prime Min­is­ter, the Nether­lands

• Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the up­per house of par­lia­ment, Rus­sia

• King Felipe VI, Spain

• Ban Ki-moon, Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral, United Na­tions

• Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, Pres­i­dent, Malta

Who was Shi­mon Peres?

• Born in 1923 in Wis­niew, Poland, now Vish­nyeva, Be­larus

• First elected to the Knes­set (Is­raeli par­lia­ment) in 1959

• Served in 12 gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing once as pres­i­dent and twice as prime min­is­ter

• Seen as a hawk in his early years, when he ne­go­ti­ated arms deals for the fledgling na­tion

• In 1996 he or­dered the so-called Op­er­a­tion Grapes of Wrath op­er­a­tion against Beirut in re­tal­i­a­tion for Le­banese Hezbol­lah’s es­ca­lated rocket fire on north­ern Is­rael. The bomb­ing cam­paign killed and in­jured hun­dreds of civil­ians

• A mem­ber of the gov­ern­ment that ap­proved the build­ing of Jewish set­tle­ments on oc­cu­pied ter­ri­tory, but came to view their fu­ture as ne­go­tiable

• Played a key part in reach­ing the Oslo peace ac­cords, the first deal be­tween Is­rael and the Pales­tini­ans, which said they would “strive to live in peace­ful co­ex­is­tence”

Pho­to­graph: AP

Mod­els, one hold­ing a dog painted in blue, wear cre­ations for Man­ish Arora’s Spring-Sum­mer 2017 ready-to-wear fash­ion col­lec­tion pre­sented on Thurs­day in Paris

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