Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to attend Shimon Peres funeral
JERUSALEM — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will attend the funeral of former Israeli President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres on Friday, Abbas’ office said.
Abbas joins a long list of dignitaries and foreign leaders, including President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton, expected to mark the Israeli statesman’s passing amid tight security.
Peres’ body was lying in state Thursday at the Knesset — the Israeli parliament of which he was a member for more than 45 years — ahead of a planned funeral ceremony at the national cemetery at Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl.
An estimated 25,000 people have already paid respects to Peres, Knesset spokesman Yotam Yakir said about eight hours after the public visitations began.
Israeli officials are expecting two to three times more mourners Thursday than in 2014, when former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon lay in state after his death, Yakir said.
Abbas sent a condolence letter to Peres’ family following the news of his death Wednesday at 93.
In his letter, Abbas expressed his “sorrow,” noting that Peres was a partner in making peace alongside the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Peres, Arafat and Rabin shared the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts.
Abbas and Peres will forever be linked by the 1993 Oslo Accords, the peace deal they worked to forge and one that would lead to Peres receiving a Nobel Peace Prize.
The two leaders still believed in the Accords, even in the face of a stalled peace process and amid growing criticism of Oslo.
The Palestinian delegation will also include chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, Abbas’ office said.
Hamas — the Palestinian Islamist movement that controls Gaza — blasted Abbas for his letter of condolence, saying it disregarded the suffering of the Palestinian people, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.
The statement was not a direct response to the announcement that Abbas would attend Peres’ funeral.
Hamas is a bitter rival of the Fatah movement with which Abbas has long been associated.
Presidents, royals due to attend
Israel has deployed 8,000 police officers to protect world leaders attending the funeral amid fears of a “lone wolf” terrorist attack.
According to the latest list of dignitaries released Thursday by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, US Secretary of State John Kerry will be there alongside Obama and Clinton.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — a close adviser to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump — is also on the list, which was released before Thursday’s train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Prince Charles and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson are also listed, along with former UK Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron.
Also expected are the presidents of France, Germany, Ukraine, the Ivory Coast, Togo, Mexico, Lithuania, Serbia and Romania and NATO’s secretary general and the grand duke of Luxembourg, among others.
Arab leaders are notably absent from the list, although the King of Morocco is sending a representative.