Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will head to London after Independence Day next week to attend the funeral of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday.
The trip will be Netanyahu’s first overseas visit since his reelection, and he may use the opportunity to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and other world leaders who will gather for the funeral.
Netanyahu was personally invited by the Thatcher family. President Shimon Peres was also invited to the funeral, but it was decided after consultations that only Netanyahu would attend.
Both Israeli leaders issued warm statements eulogizing Thatcher after her death Monday at age 87.
Aides to Netanyahu said he had a good relationship with Thatcher over the years, met with her several times when he was opposition leader and finance minister, discussed economic policy with her, and received a handwritten letter of commiseration from her after he lost the 1999 elections.
Thatcher “was truly a great leader, a woman of principle, of determination, of conviction, of strength… a woman of greatness,” Netanyahu said Monday. “She was a staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish people. She inspired a generation of political leaders. I send my most sincere condolences to her family and to the government and people of Great Britain.”
Peres called Thatcher a “friend” and “an exceptional leader.” In a statement, the president praised her “strength of character,” saying “she served as an inspiration for other leaders. As the first female prime minister of Great Britain, she broke new ground.” Thatcher represented “vision,” the president said, noting that Thatcher was a culmination of “people” and “ideas.”
“She was a true and dedicated friend of Israel, who stood with us in times of crisis and used her influence to help us in trying to make peace,” the president said. “During our negotiations with Jordan in the late 1980s, she stood as a mediator and a source of wisdom for me and the king of Jordan.”