The coffin of former president Shimon Peres, Israel’s ninth president who died on Wednesday, was set up in the Knesset courtyard, allowing the public to pay respect and say goodbye to the 93-year-old politician. Dozens of leaders, representatives and long-time friends and admirers have arrived or are on their way to attend Peres’ funeral on Friday. US President Barack Obama, set to land in Israel n Friday, will deliver a eulogy at the funeral.
To mark his passing, Obama has instructed to lower US flags to half-mast throughout the country. This is only the sixth time in US history that the flag has been lowered in honor of a foreign leader.
Peres will be buried on Jerusalem’s Mount Herzl the following day on a plot dedicated to Israel’s founding fathers.
The Israeli flags on the Knesset plaza were lowered to half staff on Wednesday in an official ceremony during which Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein (Likud) gave a eulogy in the plaza, saying “today I feel that the family which is Israel is not only saying goodbye to another member of the family, but saying goodbye to the patriarch himself.”
Within hours of the announcement that Peres had died, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced a list of people confirmed to be attending the funeral.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will be among those traveling to Israel to pay their respects. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Pope Francis was to attend the funeral, but the Vatican denied the report, saying he would be visiting Georgia as planned.
From the United States, guests include President Barack Obama; former president Bill Clinton, who was president at the time of the Oslo Accords, and the Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton; Vice President Joe Biden; and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Obama “will lead the U.S. delegation to Jerusalem to participate in the funeral,” the White House said in a statement. “The President will depart on September 29 and will return to Washington, D.C. following the ceremony on September 30.”
From Europe, leaders confirmed as attending include German President Joachim Gauck, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; French President Francois Hollande, his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo; Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands; Spain’s King Felipe VI; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi; EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini; EU President Donald Tusk; and former UK PM Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla.
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also confirm he will be in attendance.
Other world leaders and dignitaries are expected to announce their participation.
An unconfirmed report in Israeli media said Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, the leader of the Gulf state of Oman, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, is considering attending the funeral.