Some Unexpected Reactions to Peres’s Passing

A view of the Kurdish city of Duhok. (Claus Weinberg)
A view of the Kurdish city of Duhok. (Claus Weinberg)

The extraordinary worldwide reaction to the passing of Shimon Peres has included condolences from some unexpected quarters, testifying to the long reach of Israel’s peripatetic ninth president.

“We are deeply grieved for the passing of President Peres,” proclaimed a black banner hung in a courtyard in the center of the Kurdish city of Duhok.

“[Peres] previously supported Kurds and was continuous in defending and supporting our rights. In the 1960s we had relations with Israel,” Bayar Zawitey, a journalist and organizer of a memorial ceremony in the city of 400,000, was quoted by The Jerusalem Post as saying.

Over the years, Peres held a number of secret meetings with Kurdish leaders seeking allies in their struggle for independence, according to scholar Ofra Bengio.

During his tenure as president, Peres showed his support for Kurdish national aspirations in a meeting with President Barack Obama in 2014. “The Kurds have de facto created their own state, which is democratic,” Pere said.

“We want to give a message to Israeli media and foundations, that I am 100 percent sure we will have independence and relations with Israel,” Zawitey said.

While most of the Arab world was silent about Peres’ passing, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has sent a condolence message to President Rivlin on Thursday, noting that his “contributions toward achieving peace and security in the region are more relevant than ever before.” A senior Jordanian minister, Jawad Anani, will represent Amman at the funeral on Friday.

Egypt’s president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi sent a condolence message, and he will be represented in Israel by Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, the London-based al-Araby al-Jadeed reported.

Diplomatic protocol would require no less — and perhaps more — from the two Arab countries with Israel has a formal peace treaty. But from Bahrain, a country which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, there was also a respectful message:

“Rest in peace President Shimon Peres, a man of war and a man of the still-elusive peace in the Middle East,” foreign minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed al-Khalifa wrote.

As expected, Hamas sent no condolences, instead threatening a “day of rage” on Friday.

Also on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, telephoned Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to convey his condolences, saying that he held Shimon Peres in high esteem.

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