Israeli authorities were gearing up Wednesday evening for the funeral of the country’s ninth president, Shimon Peres, who died early Wednesday morning at the age of 93.
The White House confirmed Wednesday night that US President Barack Obama “will lead the US delegation to Jerusalem to participate in the funeral.”
Obama would depart for Israel on Thursday and return after the ceremony on Friday, the White House said. Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry were also expected to attend.
Former US president Bill Clinton, a longtime friend of Peres since his term in the White House during the height of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, is also slated to attend.
Tomorrow, @POTUS will lead the U.S. delegation to Jerusalem to pay his respects at the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres.
— J Earnest (Archived) (@PressSec44) September 28, 2016
A long list of world leaders are expected at the funeral. Also flying in:
- French President Francois Hollande
- German President Joachim Gauck
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
- Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
- Australian Governor General Peter Cosgrove
- Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
- Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė
- Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis
- Britain’s Prince Charles
- Polish President Andrzej Duda
- Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann
- European Council President Donald Tusk
- European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini
- Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé
- Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis
- Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
- Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
- Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean
- Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy
- Former British prime minister David Cameron
- Former French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
- Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz
- Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion
- British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson
- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
- Portugal’s Foreign Minister Augosto Santos Silva
- Speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament Valentina Matviyenko
- Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende
Many Jewish leaders have also confirmed their attendance. Among them:
- Jewish Federations of North America President Jerry Silverman
- British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis
- UK Board of Deputies head Jonathan Arkush
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales also said he would attend.
Unconfirmed reports earlier said Pope Francis and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would be at the funeral. But Francis’s and Hillary Clinton’s attendance were denied by a Catholic Church representative in Israel and the Clinton campaign respectively. Britain’s Theresa May, also initially expected, is no longer due to attend.
Ben Gurion Airport was gearing up to receive the many world leaders, celebrity guests and journalists who were expected to arrive for the funeral.
A former aide to Peres said his body would lie in state at the Knesset from Thursday morning until 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.
The funeral, and the many world leaders expected to arrive to pay their respects, will shutter large sections of Jerusalem’s western reaches, including parts of the Route 1 highway from Tel Aviv and the area around the Knesset and Mount Herzl.
On Thursday morning, as Peres’s body is brought to Jerusalem to lie in state outside the Knesset, Route 1 will be closed where the casket passes.
All roads around the Knesset will be shut by police from 8 a.m. till 9 p.m. Thursday.
On Friday, ahead of his funeral at Mount Herzl, all roads to the cemetery will be closed from the early morning until 2 p.m.
Deputy Commissioner Alon Levavi, head of operations for the Israel Police, asked the public to be patient amid the closures.
“Presidents, very senior people, even dukes will be passing along these roads,” Levavi said Wednesday evening.
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, Dr. Rafi Walden, his personal physician and son-in-law, told AFP.
News of Peres’s stroke earlier this month sent shockwaves throughout the country, sparking introspection over the imminent loss of Israelis’ last politically active leader seen by many as a final link to the nation’s founding generation.
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 became one of Israel’s most popular and unifying public figures in his later years.
News agencies contributed to this report.
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