TEL AVIV – It is a day and a half since the death of Israeli statesman Shimon Peres and not a single Arab leader has said they would join countless world leaders – including President Barack Obama – at his funeral.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi were reported to have expressed condolences at Peres’ passing. Jordan’s King Abdullah has so far remained mum on the former president’s death, along with countless rulers from other Arab nations.
The Times of Israel notes that the silence is “an echo of the ‘old’ Middle East peace that Peres sought so fervently to change.”
A commentator on Israel’s Channel 2, Arad Nir, said it would be a black mark if the people Peres negotiated with did not attend the funeral.
“It puts a question mark on Shimon Peres’s vision, his life’s mission: Peace,” he said.
According to the report, senior Palestinian officials hung up the phone when Israeli journalists pressed them on whether Abbas would attend the funeral of a public servant who spent the majority of his life pursuing peace with the Palestinians. This was in spite of repeated statements by officials on both sides that attendance by a Palestinian Authority official – and its president in particular – could impact the Israeli public’s views on the moribund peace process.
Egyptian media reported that Sissi, who expressed “deep sorrow and grief” at the death of Peres, would be sending his foreign minister Sameh Shoukry to represent Egypt at the funeral.
King Abdullah met with Peres on more than one occasion. Earlier this week, Abdullah’s government signed a $10 billion gas deal with Israel. Despite this, the Times of Israel notes, Abdullah has remained tight-lipped on Peres’ passing, possibly due to fears of the response from the Jordanian public – especially in light of how the Arab media is covering Peres’ death.
Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian government spokesman, said “Peres was a significant contributor to the historic injustice that occurred to the Palestinian people,” apparently in reference to Israel’s founding in 1948.
Hamad al-Qahtani from the Kuwaiti government said: “He will stand in front of God and defend himself for his heinous crimes against humanity. He killed refugees, orphaned children and destroyed families. May he get what he deserves.”
Prominent Egyptian columnist Abdullah el-Sennawy noted: “He often presented himself as a man of peace, but no one in the Arab world really believed him. … Whenever there was war, he was there.”
Another commentator from the UAE tweeted: “Shimon Peres was an example of how the world can forget someone’s crimes if they only live long enough.”
However, there were a few smatterings of praise among the region.
In Iraq, Iyad Jamal al-Din, a Shiite cleric and former politician, hailed Peres as a “wise leader who helped his people.”
“What have Arab leaders done for their people? Peres turned Israel from a militia to a state. Today, the last wise man of the Israelis has passed,” he said.