Netanyahu to be abroad during memorial events for Shimon Peres
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Netanyahu to be abroad during memorial events for Shimon Peres

With PM away, Rivlin, Henry Kissinger and Tony Blair set to keynote commemorations on first anniversary of elder statesman’s death

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a moment of silence for Shimon Peres during a special cabinet session in Jerusalem, on September 28, 2016 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a moment of silence for Shimon Peres during a special cabinet session in Jerusalem, on September 28, 2016 (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

Prime Minister Netanyahu will miss a series of memorial events for former president Shimon Peres next week, as he is traveling to Latin America.

Instead, President Reuven Rivlin, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and ex-UK prime minister Tony Blair are scheduled to deliver keynote speeches at events marking one year since the elder statesman’s passing.

Peres, Israel’s ninth president, died on September 28, 2016, at the age of 93.

Starting Wednesday, his family and the State of Israel are organizing a series of commemorations to be attended by top Israeli officials and businessmen as well as high-profile dignitaries from abroad.

Netanyahu is scheduled to take off for Argentina on Sunday evening. On Wednesday, he will fly to Colombia and Mexico, before continuing to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly and meet US President Donald Trump. He is set to become the first Israeli prime minister ever to visit Latin America, and has hailed the visit as a “breakthrough.”

US President Barack Obama speaks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he sits next to President Reuven Rivlin (L), during the funeral of former president Shimon Peres on September 30, 2016, at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl national cemetery. (AFP PHOTO / POOL / RONEN ZVULUN)

On Wednesday morning, Rivlin will open the memorial events with a keynote address at a “Leadership and Innovation” conference in memory of his late predecessor.

The conference will also be attended by Cisco Systems Executive Chairman John Chambers; the CEO of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd., Gil Shwed; Facebook International Vice President Nicola Mendelsohn; and others, the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation announced Thursday.

“The leaders of global companies are coming to Israel to honor the memory of President Peres and to advance his flagship initiative — the Israeli Innovation Center, which is expected to open in 2018,” the center said in a statement.

Later during the day, Kissinger — a fellow Nobel Peace laureate — is scheduled to speak at an event at the Peres Center in Jaffa to be attended by “senior security officials, the Peres family and close friends, and honored guests from Israel and abroad,” according to the center.

Shimon Peres (L) awards former American foreign minister Henry Kissinger Israel’s Presidential Award of Distinction, at the opening ceremony of the annual Israeli Presidential Conference in Jerusalem on June 19, 2012. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

On Thursday, September 14, Rivlin and Blair will address an official state memorial for Peres at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl, where he is buried in the Great Leaders of the Nation plot. At the event, Israeli politicians will meet with children from Kfar Saba and Rosh Ha’ayin schools named after Peres.

“As part of the memorial events, a photo exhibition will be displayed at the entrance to the Peres Center and will feature photos of Shimon Peres as taken by his close friend, Yosef Avi Yair (Juha) Engel, who worked alongside President Peres for over a decade,” the Peres Center said.

Then-defense minister Shimon Peres (left) with Yitzhak Rabin. (GPO)

Born in 1923 in what today is Belarus, Peres was Israel’s eighth prime minister, serving from September 1984 until October 1986, and again from November 1995 to June 1996, in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of his greatest rival-turned-ally, Yitzhak Rabin. In 2007, he became Israel’s ninth president.

Peres served in the Knesset for nearly half a century, from 1959 until 2007, holding virtually all senior ministerial positions over the years. In 1994, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his Labor Party colleague and nemesis, then-prime minister Rabin.

When he died, two weeks after suffering a stroke, a host of world leaders hurried to Israel to bid farewell to Israel’s elder statesman. Among the dignitaries who attended the September 30 funeral were then-US president Barack Obama, former US president Bill Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and scores of other leaders from around the world.

Peres’s memoirs, entitled “No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel,” will be published on September 12.

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