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Israeli Statesman Shimon Peres Laid To Rest In Jerusalem

  • RFE/RL

The former Israeli leader and Nobel Peace laureate Simon Peres has been laid to rest at a funeral ceremony attended by dozens of world leaders in Jerusalem.

U.S. President Barack Obama, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, and French President Francois Hollande were among those on hand for the burial in Jerusalem's Mount Herzl cemetery on September 30.

Speaking at the funeral, Obama said Peres showed that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist ideal.

"He never saw his dream of peace fulfilled...and yet he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working," Obama said in his 20-minute eulogy.

Obama said Peres had always strived for a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that treated both sides equally.

Peres, a former president and prime minister, died on September 28, two weeks after suffering a stroke. He was 93.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the gathering of world leaders was a testament to Peres' optimism, quest for peace, and love for Israel.

Peres shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 for helping negotiate a historic interim peace agreement with the Palestinians. Since then, the peace process has collapsed.

Ahead of the state ceremony, Abbas and Netanyahu shook hands and briefly exchanged words.

"Long time, long time," Abbas told Netanyahu and the prime minister's wife, Sara.

Israeli-Palestinians negotiations have been frozen since 2014, and Netanyahu and Abbas have not held face-to-face talks since 2010.

The funeral was expected to be Israel's largest since that of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Peres's partner in peace who was killed by an ultranationalist Israeli in 1995.

Along with Obama, the U.S. delegation included former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, about 20 members of Congress, and several administration officials.

In an emotional eulogy, Clinton described Peres as a "wide champion of our common humanity."

Israel tightened security ahead of the ceremony, deploying some 8,000 police and closing roads in central Jerusalem.

Britain's Prince Charles, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and former British leaders David Cameron and Tony Blair were also on a long list of foreign dignitaries attending the funeral.

Outside Israel's parliament on September 29, an estimated 50,000 Israelis filed past Peres's flag-draped coffin as it lay in state.

Peres was born in 1923 in the village of Wiszneiw, Poland, which is now the town of Vishniova, Belarus.

Peres was involved in nearly every major development in Israel's history since its founding in 1948. He served in a dozen cabinets and was twice prime minister. He was Israel's president from 2007 until 2014.

He was credited with leading the country through some of its most defining moments, from creating its nuclear arsenal in the 1950s to guiding a skeptical nation into peace talks with the Palestinians in the 1990s.