World leaders see off controversial Israeli leader

World leaders see off controversial Israeli leader

World leaders met in Israel for the funeral of the country's former leader Shimon Peres, who worked with Palestinians on peace talks, but also oversaw the Qana Massacre.
3 min read
30 September, 2016
Many people in the Arab world regard Peres as a "war criminal" [Getty]

World leaders bid farewell to controversial former Israeli leader Shimon Peres at his funeral in Jerusalem on Friday.

US President Barack Obama hailed Peres as a "giant of the 20th century" and made a tribute to the man.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was among the mourners at the city's Mount Herzl national cemetery and was seated in the front row, reportedly at the request of Peres' family.

Abbas knew Peres well and negotiated with him. In an extremely rare move, he shook hands and spoke briefly with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu upon arrival.

"In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I had the honour to meet: men like Nelson Mandela, women like Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth," said Obama, who wore a black Jewish skullcap.

Obama, who has had a testy personal relationship with Israeli Netanyahu, however, made a point of mentioning Abbas at the start of his eulogy and said his "presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace".

Peres' death on Wednesday at the age of 93 drew tributes from around the world for Israel's last remaining founding father.

      Peres' death on Wednesday at the age of 93 drew tributes
from around the world [Getty]

Around 8,000 police were deployed for the commemorations.

Preventative arrests of both Jews and Palestinians were made ahead of the funeral to avoid potential disruptions, police said.

While Peres is hailed in the West as a peacemaker, many in the Arab world - including Palestinians - regard him a "war criminal".

They have cited his involvement in successive Arab-Israeli wars, the occupation of Palestinian territory and his support for settlement building before his work on the Oslo accords.

He was also prime minister in 1996 when more than 100 civilians were killed while sheltering at a UN peacekeepers' base in the Lebanese village of Qana fired upon by Israel.

Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, condemned Abbas for offering condolences to Peres' family, saying it "disregards the blood of the martyrs and the suffering of the Palestinian people".

There have been very few tributes from Arab nations, though Egypt was represented by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordan too sent a minister.

Abbas, who signed the Oslo accords along with Peres, however, called him a "brave" partner for peace.

Bahrain's foreign minister sent his condolences to Israel through a tweet, describing the former leader as "a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace".