Obama, world leaders to attend Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem

Obama, world leaders to attend Peres’s funeral in Jerusalem

German, Canadian, French and Australian heads of state, along with Britain’s Prince Charles, also set to fly to Israel for Friday event; late president’s body to lie in state at the Knesset Thursday

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

US President Barack Obama meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the Oval Office of the White House on June 25, 2014, in Washington, DC (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
US President Barack Obama meets with Israeli President Shimon Peres in the Oval Office of the White House on June 25, 2014, in Washington, DC (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Israeli authorities geared up for the funeral of the country’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, who died early Wednesday morning at the age of 93.

US President Barack Obama would attend the Friday event, the Foreign Ministry said, along with Secretary of State John Kerry. Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will also take a break from campaigning to attend the funeral with her husband, former president Bill Clinton, the ministry said. However, Clinton’s campaign reportedly later clarified that she would not be attending.

In addition, Britain’s Prince Charles, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto confirmed their attendance.

A spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Israel dispelled rumors that Pope Francis would attend.

Also named as attendees were the president of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé; the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis; and Her Royal Highness Beatrix of the Netherlands.

A former aide to Peres said his body would lie in state at the Knesset from Thursday morning before the state funeral, at Mount Herzl, the country’s national cemetery, in Jerusalem.

Yona Bartal, his former aide, told Channel 10 that the plans were in line with Peres’s wishes.

Ben Gurion Airport was gearing up to receive the many world leaders, guests and journalists who are expected to arrive for the funeral. Workers were preparing additional parking areas for the increased number of airplanes that will arrive.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry instructed schools throughout the country to dedicate an hour Wednesday morning to talk about Peres’s life and deeds.

Peres died in his sleep at around 3 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Rafi Walden, his personal physician who is also his son-in-law, told AFP.

News of Peres’s stroke earlier this month sent shockwaves through the country, which feared the imminent loss of the last surviving link to its founding fathers.

Over a seven-decade career, the elder statesman of Israeli politics and one of the country’s most admired symbols has held virtually every senior political office, including two stints as prime minister and extended terms as foreign, defense and finance minister. He won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work in reaching an interim peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Long a divisive personality in politics, Peres finally became one of Israel’s most popular public figures in his later years.

Times of Israel staff and news agencies contributed to this report.

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