Netanyahu flies to London for Thatcher funeral
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Netanyahu flies to London for Thatcher funeral

PM also scheduled to meet with British and Canadian prime ministers

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, bound for London, April 16, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah board a plane at Ben Gurion Airport, outside of Tel Aviv, bound for London, April 16, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah flew to London on Tuesday night, ahead of the state funeral for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher on Wednesday.

During his visit to England, Netanyahu will meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Israel Radio reported.

In London on Tuesday, Thatcher’s body was taken to the Houses of Parliament, where it was to rest overnight before her funeral, the Associated Press reported.

Thatcher, who died last week at age 87, is being given a ceremonial funeral with full military honors.

More than 4,000 police officers will be on duty for the procession as part of a major security operation, stepped up after Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded over 170.

More than 700 soldiers, sailors and air force personnel will line the route, and Parliament’s Big Ben bell will be silenced for the funeral.

The trip is Netanyahu’s first overseas visit since his reelection. He 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.

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 last 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.”

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