Several Arab leaders have reached out to send their respects and express their condolences on the death of former president Shimon Peres, who, while seen by most as one of the region’s biggest advocates for peace, leaves a complicated legacy behind him.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas extended condolences to the family of Peres, who passed away at the age of 93 on Wednesday two weeks after suffering a massive stroke.
“Shimon Peres’s death is a heavy loss for all humanity and for peace in the region,” tweeted Abbas in Arabic on Wednesday.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the Fatah leader had also sent a letter to Peres’s family, praising the last of Israel’s founding fathers for his role in the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords, for which Peres won a Nobel Peace Prize.
“Peres was a partner in making the peace of the brave with the martyr Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister (Yitzhak) Rabin, and made unremitting efforts to reach a lasting peace from the Oslo agreement until the final moments of his life,” wrote Abbas.
Abbas has requested that arrangements be made to enable him and four other Palestinian officials to travel from the West Bank to Jerusalem on Friday in order to attend Peres’s state funeral. He will join over 80 other world leaders, including President Barack Obama.
On Thursday, the foreign minister of the Arab state of Bahrain, which does not have relations with Israel, made a surprise statement which, predictably, was also immediately condemned by the Arab public.
“Rest in peace President Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still elusive peace in the Middle East,” read the message posted by Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa on Twitter. It was immediately condemned by Arab social media users.
While Jordan and Egypt both have diplomatic relations with Israel, neither Jordanian King Abdullah nor Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi have publicly commented on Peres’s death.
However, Sisi was reported to have sent a private condolence letter to Israeli officials, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri will attend Peres’s funeral. No Jordanian contingent is expected to attend.
Despite the conciliatory moves on the part of Arab governments, however, Arab members of Israel’s own government have refused to express condolences or attend the funeral.
While every other political party in the Knesset released statements honoring Peres, the Arab Joint List party refused, even upon request. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the party, tweeted in defense of the decision that “the memory of Peres in the Arab public is different from the narrative discussed in recent years”.
While he acknowledged Peres’s peace efforts of the 90’s, he said that in recent years Peres “didn’t pursue real peace” and participated in state-building efforts which, since 1948, “brought disaster to my nation.”
No Joint List MKs visited Peres’s casket on Thursday as he lay in state at the Knesset.