World leaders are set to pay their respects to ‘man of peace’ Shimon Peres, the Israeli Nobel laureate, former prime minister, and president, at a state funeral in Jerusalem on Friday.
Mr Peres died on Tuesday in a hospital near Tel Aviv at the age of 93.
The elder statesman had been in declining health in recent weeks after suffering a stroke that left him unconscious and relying on a breathing tube.
A former aide to Peres says his body will lie in state at the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, on Thursday before a state funeral at the country’s national cemetery in Jerusalem on Friday.
Yona Bartal, his former aide, told Israel’s Channel 10 TV that the plans were in line with Peres’ wishes.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says a long list of world leaders will attend the funeral.
Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Wednesday that President Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Prince Charles and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are all expected.
He says many other VIPs are expected to attend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has convened a special session of his governing Cabinet to mark the death of Peres.
Netanyahu said he ‘never stopped trying to reach to peace and believing in peace.
‘His hand was always extended to a historic compromise with our neighbors, and even if this compromise tarried, he taught us never to give in to despair, but to cling to hope.’
Netanyahu, Peres’ longtime political rival, admitted that the two ‘had differences of opinion’ but said their relations strengthened with time. Peres served as president during Netanyahu’s previous term as prime minister.
Doctors had hoped that Peres would be able to recover from his stroke, but his condition continued to deteriorate over the weekend.
Hospital officials told family members that there was nothing they could do for him.
His son, Chemi, made the announcement of his death to reporters gathered at the hospital where Peres has been treated for the past two weeks.
‘Today with deep sorrow we bid farewell to our beloved father, the 9th president of Israel,’ he said.
‘Our father’s legacy has always been to look to tomorrow. We were privileged to be part of his private family, but today we sense that the entire nation of Israel and the global community share this great loss. We share this pain together.’
Peres was best known as the statesman who along with Yitzhak Rabin agreed to recognize Israel’s longtime enemy, the Palestine Liberation Organization, as the legitimate representative of the Palestinians and embark on a process of negotiations for peace.
For their efforts, Rabin, Peres, and PLO chief Yasser Arafat were awarded the Nobel Prize.
After Rabin’s assassination in 1995 at the hands of right-wing Jewish opposed to territorial concessions to the Arabs, Peres once again became prime minister.
But he was unable to continue Rabin’s work due to his slim election loss to the hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu.
Peres’ passing marks the end of an era in Israel’s history, as the last of the country’s founding generation leaves the stage.
Tributes from dignitaries came pouring in as news of Peres’ passing spread.
US President Barack Obama, who forged a close relationship with Peres, released a statement on Tuesday mourning his passing.
‘There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves,’ Obama wrote.
‘My friend Shimon was one of those people.’
Obama calls Peres ‘the essence of Israel itself,’ noting Peres had fought for Israel’s independence, worked its land and served Israel in virtually every government position.
Obama says that with the death of Peres, ‘a light has gone out, but the hope he gave us will burn forever.’
‘Tonight, Michelle and I join people across Israel, the United States and around the world in honoring the extraordinary life of our dear friend Shimon Peres – a founding father of the State of Israel and a statesman whose commitment to Israel’s security and pursuit of peace was rooted in his own unshakeable moral foundation and unflagging optimism.’
‘I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend,’ Obama wrote.
Former US President George H.W. Bush hailed Peres for his ‘unyielding determination and principle’ which ‘helped guide his beloved country through the crucible of mortal challenge.’
‘But it was by his innate humanity, his decency, that Shimon inspired the world over and helped pave a path to peace broad enough that future generations will walk it one day, side-by side,’ the elder Bush said.
Former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton say they have ‘lost a true and treasured friend.’
The Clintons say Israel has lost a leader ‘who championed its security, prosperity and limitless possibilities from its birth to his last day on earth.’
Bill Clinton called Peres a ‘genius with a big heart who used his gifts to imagine a future of reconciliation not conflict, economic and social empowerment not anger and frustration, and a nation, a region, and a world enhanced by caring and sharing, not torn asunder by the illusions of permanent dominance and perfect truth.
‘His critics called him a dreamer,’ Clinton said. ‘That he was – a lucid, eloquent dreamer until the very end. Thank goodness.’
Another former world leader who dealt with Peres on many occasions, former British prime minister Tony Blair, also released a statement on Tuesday.
‘I am more sad than words can express,’ Blair said.
‘This is a man who was a political giant, a statesman who will rank as one of the foremost of this era or any era, and someone I loved deeply,’ he said.
‘He was an inspiration, a mentor and a friend. His intellect, his way with words that was eloquent beyond description, his command of the world and how it was changing were extraordinary.’
‘Though he grew older, his spirit never did. Above all, his commitment to peace and his belief that it was in the interests of the country he adored marked him out as a visionary whose vision was never dimmed or displaced.’
‘He saw every setback as a spur to further action and every moment of hope as a sign of what could be done.’
GOP Senator Ted Cruz of Texas released a statement honoring Peres for his ‘exceptional service to the Jewish state’ and his ‘enduring friendship with the United States.’
‘My thoughts and prayers are with his family and our close ally Israel. May his memory be a blessing.’
‘Shimon Peres was, above all, a man of peace,’ tweeted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. ‘My deepest condolences to his loved ones and to the people of Israel on his passing.’
Netanyahu announced that he would convene a special cabinet meeting in Jerusalem to mark the occasion.
‘The PM and his wife, Sara, wish their deepest and personal sorrow of the passing away of former President Shimon Peres,’ a spokesperson for Netanyahu said.
‘He was one of the founding fathers of the state of Israel and served our people before we even had a country,’ Peres’ son, Chemi, told Israeli media.
‘He worked tirelessly for Israel from the very first day of the state to the last day of his life.’
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin says he is cutting short an official visit to Ukraine to attend the funeral on Friday.
Rivlin is in Ukraine for a commemoration of the 1941 Babi Yar massacre, in which more than 100,000 Jews and others were killed by Nazi officers in a ravine on the outskirts of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev during World War II.
Rivlin said in a statement Wednesday: ‘A short distance from where I am visiting in Ukraine, in the city of Vishnyeva, Belarus, was born Szymon Perski, who grew to be a young man with great dreams.’
Peres later immigrated to pre-state Israel and changed his last name.
Rivlin said: ‘Shimon made us look far into the future, and we loved him. We loved him because he made us dare to imagine not what was once here, nor what is now, but what could be.’
Rivlin succeeded Peres as president in 2014.
The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas expressed happiness at the death of Peres.
A spokesman for the group, Sami Abu Zuhri, tells The Associated Press Wednesday, ‘the Palestinian people are very happy at the passing of this criminal who caused their blood to shed.’
He added: ‘Shimon Peres was the last remaining Israeli official who founded the occupation, and his death is the end of a phase in the history of this occupation and the beginning of a new phase of weakness.’
Hamas is sworn to the destruction of Israel. In 2007, it routed forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas and took over the Gaza Strip.
Just before he fell ill, Peres recorded a message on Facebook in Hebrew urging Israelis to buy domestically manufactured products.
‘I want all of you to buy Israeli products that are made in Israel,’ the former president said. ‘Not just because it’s more patriotic to do so, but because it’s better.’
A protege of Israel’s founding father David Ben-Gurion, he led the Defense Ministry in his 20s and spearheaded the development of Israel’s nuclear program.
He was first elected to parliament in 1959 and later held every major Cabinet post – including defense, finance and foreign affairs – and served three brief stints as prime minister.
And yet, for much of his political career he could not parlay his international prestige into success in Israeli politics, where he was branded by many as both a utopian dreamer and political schemer.
His well-tailored, necktied appearance and swept-back gray hair seemed to separate him from his more informal countrymen.
He suffered a string of electoral defeats: competing in five general elections seeking the prime minister’s spot, he lost four and tied one.
He finally secured the public adoration that had long eluded him when he has chosen by parliament to a seven-year term as Israel’s ceremonial president in 2007, taking the role of elder statesman.
Peres was celebrated by doves and vilified by hawks for advocating far-reaching Israeli compromises for peace even before he negotiated the first interim accord with the Palestinians in 1993 that set into motion a partition plan that gave them limited self-rule.
That was followed by a peace accord with neighboring Jordan. After a fateful six-month period in 1995-96 that included Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, a spate of Palestinian suicide bombings and Peres’ own election loss to the more conservative Benjamin Netanyahu.
Relegated to the political wilderness, he created his non-governmental Peres Center for Peace that raised funds for cooperation and development projects involving Israel, the Palestinians and Arab nations.
He returned to it at age 91 when he completed his term as president.
Shimon Perski was born on Aug. 2, 1923, in Vishneva, then part of Poland. He moved to pre-state of Israel in 1934 with his immediate family.
Her grandfather and other relatives stayed behind and perished in the Holocaust. Rising quickly through Labor Party ranks, he became a top aide to Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and a man Peres once called ‘the greatest Jew of our time.’
At 29, he was the youngest person to serve as director of Israel’s Defense Ministry, and is credited with arming Israel’s military almost from scratch.
Yet throughout his political career, he suffered from the fact that he never wore an army uniform or fought in a war.
Of his 10 books, several amplified his vision of a ‘new Middle East’ where there was peaceful economic and cultural cooperation among all the nations of the region.
Despite continued waves of terror that pushed the Israeli political map to the right, the concept of a Palestinian state next to Israel became mainstream Israeli policy many years after Peres advocated it.
Shunted aside during the 1999 election campaign, won by party colleague Ehud Barak, Peres rejected advice to retire, assuming the newly created and loosely defined Cabinet post of Minister for Regional Cooperation.
In 2000, Peres absorbed another resounding political slap, losing an election in the parliament for the largely ceremonial post of president to Likud Party backbencher Moshe Katsav, who was later convicted and imprisoned for rape.
Even so, Peres refused to quit. In 2001, at age 77, he took the post of foreign minister in the government of national unity set up by Ariel Sharon, serving for 20 months before Labor withdrew from the coalition.
Then he followed Sharon into a new party, Kadima, serving as vice-premier under Sharon and his successor, Ehud Olmert, before assuming the presidency.