Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas will be attending Shimon Peres’s funeral Friday, after a request to do so was authorized by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. A report earlier said that Abbas had asked Israeli officials to be allowed to attend the funeral.
Abbas on Thursday filed a request with General Yoav Mordechai, IDF coordinator in Yehudah and Shomron, to attend the funeral along with five other PA officials, including chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat. Officials close to Abbas were quoted as saying that the PA chief was interested in attending for “humanitarian, not political reasons.” Israeli security officials will consult Thursday night with PA officials on ensuring the secure passage of Abbas from Ramallah to Mount Herzl.
Zionist Camp head Yitzchak Herzog had earlier urged the government to authorize Abbas’s attendance, saying that allowing Abbas to attend would be “an important personal and diplomatic gesture.”
It was not immediately clear if the occasion would yield anything more than handshakes with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, who will also be at the burial.
Abbas last visited Yerushalayim on Sept. 15, 2010, when he held talks with Netanyahu at the prime minister’s residence. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic presidential candidate, attended that meeting.
Abbas and Netanyahu, who last shook hands publicly at a U.N. climate conference in Paris on Nov. 15, 2015, have agreed in principle to hold a summit in Moscow at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It should be noted that while Abbas was hoping to attend the funeral, Israeli Arab MKs said they would boycott it. “I am not participating in this ‘celebration of history,’ which is all about the events of 1948 and nuclear weapons,” MK Ayman Odeh, head of the United Arab List, told Army Radio earlier Thursday, referring to Peres’s role in the establishment of the Dimona nuclear facility and his alleged role in the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons capacity. “I think all of these things brought disaster on other nations and on my nation in 1948.”
Meanwhile, police announced Thursday that Road 1, the main highway between Yerushalayim and the center of the country, will be closed altogether on Friday. Air Force One will bring President Barack Obama to Israel on Friday morning, just hours before the funeral. After consulting with Shin Bet and intelligence officials, police have decided that closing the road altogether is the best option for ensuring the security of Obama.
As a result, traffic is expected to be nightmarish, stretching all the way back to Tel Aviv. Anyone traveling from the center of the country to Yerushalayim will have to use Road 443, while residents of Beit Shemesh and other towns south of Road 1 will have to take road 375, to get into the city from the south of the city, via Beitar Illit. As that road is very narrow, with plenty of twists and turns that limit speed, traffic is expected to be extremely difficult to navigate. Police pleaded with drivers who did not have to come to Yerushalayim Friday to stay out of town, or otherwise change their plans and arrive on Thursday night.