Senior Israeli opposition leaders and Palestinian officials paid their respects to late Israeli journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, who died this week at age 94.
Dozens of people, including a delegation of Palestinian officials, attended a memorial for Avnery on Wednesday in Tel Aviv.
Avnery, a member of Israel’s founding generation, was a symbol of Israel’s peace camp for decades and championed the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As a journalist, he famously sneaked into besieged Beirut during the 1982 Lebanon War to talk to Israel’s then-nemesis, PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.
Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said he came to “remember a great man of peace,” and that the “commitment to peace is still alive because there are people in Israel like Uri Avnery.”
Amir Peretz of the Zionist Union, Meretz party head Tamar Zandberg, and Joint (Arab) List head Ayman Odeh and MK Dov Khenin also attended the ceremony.
Earlier this week, opposition leader Tzipi Livni lamented Avnery’s death. “He was a brave journalist and a rare and revolutionary man,” she said. “He stood for his positions despite the attacks (he faced) and planted within the people of Israel the notions of peace and moderation, when they were not yet in the lexicon, with a sharp and clear-eyed view that he maintained till the day he died. Israel will miss him.”
Zandberg said Avnery “molded Israeli history as few have done, precisely because conscience and truth were his compass. The fact that this was almost always against the mainstream did not lead him to the margins but on the contrary, to influence.”
Odeh called Avnery “a dear man who dedicated his life to peace, to a better future for both peoples and to the establishment of a Palestinian state. His voice, vision and outlook will continue to reverberate after his passing.”
On the right, former Likud minister Gideon Sa’ar said Avnery “was as far from myself and my positions as east is from west. His words and actions often angered me. But in nascent Israel he was a model of fearless opposition, in times when it was difficult to oppose the Mapai (precursor to Labor) regime, which hounded him. And there is no democracy without opposition.”
Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett told Army Radio that Avnery “contributed to the establishment of the state…I very much opposed his positions but we are a democratic country.”
Avnery had requested that his body be cremated and his ashes scattered into the sea.