Mahmoud Abbas to Attend Shimon Peres Funeral, but Thaw With Israel Is Unlikely


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The coffin of Shimon Peres, a former president of Israel, near the Knesset in Jerusalem.

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Abir Sultan/European Pressphoto Agency

JERUSALEM — In death as in life, Shimon Peres will bring together longtime adversaries. But no one expects reconciliation when Israeli and Palestinian leaders both attend his funeral on Friday.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, announced on Thursday that he would attend the funeral, putting him in proximity to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel when the two have been jousting over who is to blame for their failure to sit down and talk.

The tension between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu, in fact, underscores just how far the two sides have separated since the 1990s, when Mr. Peres helped negotiate the Oslo Accords, which created the framework for peaceful Israeli and Palestinian coexistence.

While Israeli and Palestinian leaders shared handshakes on the White House lawn back then, Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu lately have engaged in a long-distance argument, leaving little hope of actual talks, much less agreement.

At the United Nations last year, Mr. Abbas threatened to stop complying with the Palestinian Authority’s obligations under the Oslo agreement because, in Mr. Abbas’s view, the Israelis were not complying with theirs. In the end, he did not follow through, but many in the region wonder about the durability of the Oslo pact.

The memorials to Mr. Peres, who served as prime minister and later president of Israel, got underway on Thursday as his body lay in state outside the Parliament headquarters. Former President Bill Clinton, host of the Oslo ceremony that marked Mr. Peres’s greatest achievement, headed straight from the airport to visit the coffin.

Thousands of everyday Israelis passed through security on a hot day to view the coffin as well, many expressing grief at the death of a man who had played a role in every stage of the nation’s history.

“It’s another generation, a generation of giants, and he was the last one,” said Leah Hoffman, 60, a government employee. “He’s in our DNA.” With Mr. Peres’s death, Ms. Hoffman said, “I have the same feeling I had when my father passed away.”

Her daughter, Shifra Hoffman, 30, an administrator, said it was hard to contemplate an Israel without Mr. Peres. “There was a feeling that he would always be there,” she said. “Now that he’s gone, you feel emptiness.”

That Mr. Abbas would come was not a given. Already under fire from Palestinians who consider him too close to the Israelis, Mr. Abbas risked political damage at home by agreeing to attend. Hamas, the rival Palestinian group that controls Gaza, has excoriated Mr. Peres since his death this week, calling him a war criminal, not a peacemaker, and some in Mr. Abbas’s own Fatah party agree.

At a festival in Gaza to commemorate the anniversary of the latest wave of Palestinian attacks against Israelis, Amir Abo Al Amren, a Hamas official, said Mr. Peres was not the hero depicted in the West. “Peres is a murderer and not a man of peace,” he said. “He deceived the entire world but did not deceive the Palestinian people.”

The hostility helped explain why even leaders of Arab states with peace treaties with Israel seemed eager to stay away. While Egyptian and Jordanian leaders attended the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the other author of the Oslo Accords, after his assassination in 1995, neither country’s top leader has said he will attend Friday. But Egypt will send Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who visited Jerusalem over the summer and met with Mr. Netanyahu, illustrating a recent improvement of ties with Cairo.

Among the others who plan to attend the funeral on Friday at Mount Herzl, the national cemetery, are President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, President François Hollande of France and other world leaders. In addition to Mr. Obama and Mr. Clinton, speakers will include Mr. Netanyahu; Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, and parliamentary speaker, Yuli Edelstein; the author Amos Oz; and Mr. Peres’s three children.

Altogether, the Israeli authorities said they expected 60 major guests from around the world who would require security, including 20 presidents, 15 foreign ministers and five heads of state.

The government began flooding Jerusalem with 8,000 security officers and made plans to shut down major roads, including the highway linking Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Some schools and businesses decided to close on Friday given the expected disruption.

The 12-hour visitation on Thursday drew a cross section of Israelis, some who had known of Mr. Peres their whole lives and others born after some of his most notable accomplishments and actions.

“Shimon Peres is kind of like the embodiment of everything that I believe in in Israel — working for peace and acceptance of everybody and everything, and looking to the future,” said David Weiner, 62, who is self-employed.

But the deterioration of Mr. Peres’s dream of a lasting peace shadowed the day. said Joel Weiner, a 24-year-old university student. “He worked his whole life for it and never achieved it, which in that sense is tragic.”

A group of students from Brigham Young University studying in Israel for a semester also paid respects. “This is their George Washington,” said Matthew Jellen, 21, a junior.

But Odiel Malchi, 31, a mortgage banker, said he could not help noticing that many of the visitors on Thursday were foreigners, suggesting that Mr. Peres was to some extent appreciated more abroad than at home.

“He was able to see the bigger picture,” Mr. Malchi said. “He was able to communicate what he thought would be best for the nation. People at home sometimes had a hard time understanding and respecting that.”

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