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US President Obama to Speak at Peres' Funeral

  • VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzel national cemetery in Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzel national cemetery in Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016.

U.S. President Barack Obama has arrived in Israel where he will speak at the funeral of former Israeli leader Shimon Peres.

Obama is leading a delegation of 32 U.S. officials, including former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry, Democratic Senator Bob Casey and Nancy Pelosi, Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.

The American leader will be joined by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In attending the funeral, Abbas hopes to "send a strong message to Israeli society that the Palestinians are for peace, and appreciate the efforts of peaceful men like Shimon Peres," a senior Palestinian official said.

FILE - Israeli President Shimon Peres shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as Pope Francis looks on after a prayer meeting at the Vatican, June 8, 2014.

FILE - Israeli President Shimon Peres shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as Pope Francis looks on after a prayer meeting at the Vatican, June 8, 2014.

Abbas has not visited Jerusalem since 2010 and was the first Arab leader to express sorrow over Peres' death on Wednesday. Jordan's King Abdullah II expressed his condolences to Israel on Thursday. Peres' death was met with official silence in most Arab countries, reflecting their longstanding opposition to Israel.

Peres suffered a severe stroke two weeks ago and died Wednesday at the age of 93 in a hospital in Tel HaShomer.

He held nearly every major Israeli political post during his long career, including prime minister twice, the presidency, defense minister and foreign minister.

Watch video report from VOA's Zlatica Hoke:

​He was the longest-serving member of parliament in Israeli history, holding a seat in the Knesset for 48 years.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Peres devoted his life to the sovereignty of the Israeli people.

"As a man of vision, his gaze was aimed to the future," Netanyahu said. "As a man of security, he fortified Israel's strength in many ways, some of which even today is still unknown. As a man of peace, he worked until his final days toward reconciling with our neighbors for a better future for our children."

Obama shared Peres' vision for a two-state solution to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

FILE - President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres after Peres presented him the Israeli Medal of Distinction in Jerusalem, Israel, March 21, 2013.

FILE - President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli President Shimon Peres after Peres presented him the Israeli Medal of Distinction in Jerusalem, Israel, March 21, 2013.

Obama awarded Peres the Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honor, in 2012, saying "Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is.''

In turn, Peres bestowed the Medal of Distinction on Obama, making him the first sitting U.S. president to receive Israel's highest civilian honor.

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