Brought together by death

The death of Shimon Peres on Wednesday, at the age of 93, drew tributes from around the world for a man who was seen by many as one of the few middle-eastern leaders to work strenuously for peace. His public service stretched over 70 years, but many pick out the highlight as his involvement in the Oslo Accords in 1993, along with Yitzhak Rabin, Yasser Arafat and Bill Clinton. It was Israel's first peace deal with the Palestinians.

That deal may not have matched the hopes of many, but Shimon Peres expressed their desires clearly when he said: "I want to tell the Palestinian delegation that we are sincere ... Let all of us turn from bullets to ballots, from guns to shovels. We shall pray with you. We shall offer you our help in making Gaza prosper and Jericho blossom again."

He often spoke of his vision for a Middle East in which Israel could co-exist in harmony with its Arab neighbours, sharing water and trading freely. But he also did much to ensure that Israel built up armed forces capable of keeping it strong until peace was achieved. "The wars we fought were forced upon us. Thanks to the Israel Defense Forces, we won them all, but we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories."

Benjamin Netanyahu said of him, "There were many things we agreed upon, and the number grew as the years passed. But we had disagreements, a natural part of democratic life. Shimon won international recognition that spanned the globe. World leaders wanted to be in his proximity and respected him. Along with us, many of them will accompany him on his last journey to eternal rest in the soil of Jerusalem."

At the funeral today, Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, and Saeb Erekat, senior Palestinian negotiator, for coming to the funeral, saying “It’s something that I appreciate very much, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of us.”

Screenshot from YouTubeAbbas and Netanyahu meet (Screenshot from YouTube)

It may have surprised many that Mahmoud Abbas attended the funeral in Jerusalem. For anyone who has followed the invitations that Abbas and Netanyahu have extended to each other in recent months, must surely see it as sad that it took the death of Shimon Peres to finally bring the two of them together.

Not all Arab leaders were of the same mind. Most of them stayed away from the funeral, whilst Egypt and Jordan sent official delegations.

Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, Marwan Bishara, summed-up the attitude of many Arabs towards the tributes paid to Peres. ‘We need to separate between fact and fiction. A lot of things being said today are fiction, or selective. The facts are ... illegal settlements that he said should be mushrooming everywhere went up by 50 percent after he signed a deal with the Palestinians … Palestinian leaders - after 25 years of peace process - are allowed to enter Jerusalem, only when an Israeli dies.’

His statement joins the many that need careful examination to separate fact from fiction.