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Obama leads tributes to Peres as Israeli statesman laid to rest


Funeral: President Barack Obama with Peres’ daughter Tsvia Walden

Funeral: President Barack Obama with Peres’ daughter Tsvia Walden

Getty Images

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres

AFP/Getty Images

Funeral: President Barack Obama with Peres’ daughter Tsvia Walden

US President Barack Obama led the tributes as former Israeli leader, Shimon Peres, was laid to rest yesterday.

He said Israel's ninth President had shown that "justice and hope" were at the heart of the Zionist ideal.

Mr Obama was joined by former US President Bill Clinton and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for the event at Israel's national cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.

In a nod to the Palestinian leader, Mr Abbas sat in the front row at the memorial service.

UK dignitaries included the Prince of Wales, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair.

Mr Peres, considered one of the founding fathers of Israel, died on Wednesday at the age of 93 after suffering complications following a stroke.

In his eulogy, Mr Obama said: "Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled. And yet he did not stop dreaming, and he did not stop working." He said Mr Peres never tired, never dwelt on the past and always seemed to have another project in the works.

"It is that faith, that optimism, that belief, even when all the evidence is to the contrary, that tomorrow can be better that makes us not just honour Shimon Peres, but love him. The last of the founding generation is now gone. "Toda rabah haver yakar," he added - Hebrew for "thank you so much dear friend".

Mr Peres was a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who held every major office in Israel, including President and Prime Minister.

Yesterday's funeral was Israel's largest gathering of international dignitaries since the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in November 1995.

Mr Clinton, who was President when Mr Peres negotiated a historic interim peace accord with the Palestinians in 1993, described the former Israeli leader as a "wide champion of our common humanity".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the gathering of world leaders was a testament to Mr Peres' optimism, his quest for peace and his love for Israel.

After the funeral the casket was led to the grave site by eight members of an honour guard, before being lowered into the ground in a plot alongside those of two other Israeli leaders, Mr Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir.

Belfast Telegraph