Of all the dignitaries who plan to attend former President Shimon Peres’ funeral, perhaps the most significant presence will be that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas received permission today from Israel to attend the funeral. The Shin Bet is already calling the attendance by some 80 foreign dignitaries “a security nightmare.” Abbas’ presence will do little to alleviate those concerns.
In fact, Abbas will be joined by senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh, security chief Majid Faraj and Muhammad Al-Madani. Former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qurei may also attend.
The purpose of his visit, according to a senior Palestinian official, is to “send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres.”
On Wednesday, Abbas sent his condolences to Peres’ family expressing “sorrow and sympathy” and called Peres a partner in reaching a “peace of the brave” along with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Abbas said Peres “exerted persistent efforts to reach a just peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life.”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry may represent Egypt at the funeral, although that was unconfirmed.
While leaders of Arab states are likely to be noticeably absent from Peres’ funeral on Friday, the foreign minister of Bahrain, a country with no diplomatic ties to Israel, broke the silence of the Arab world, offering condolences on the former Israeli statesman’s death.
“Rest in peace President Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace in the Middle East,” Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Khalifa wrote on Twitter.
In a speech to the United National General Assembly last week, Al Khalifa’s spoke of two states – Palestinian and Israeli – side by side. Many Arab nations call for Israel’s destruction.
“We are entitled, and look forward, to the day when we see an independent state, living in peace and security, side by side with the State of Israel,” he said. “I have no doubt whatsoever that the peoples of the region, including the Arabs and the Israelis, are eager for this day to come and look forward to this just and all-encompassing peace.”
Meanwhile Hamas called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday to coincide with Peres’ funeral and to mark one year of a new wave of terror attacks that began in September 2015.
Foreign leaders planning to attend the funeral at Mount Herzl include US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton, US Secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, German President Joachim Gauck, British Prime Minister Theresa May, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, former British prime minister David Cameron and Britain’s Prince Charles.
Clinton landed in Israel on Thursday morning and visited Peres’ casket, which was placed outside the Knesset so that the public may pay its last respects on Thursday.