The ceremony was attended by US President Barack Obama, former US President Bill Clinton, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and leaders from around the world.
The British delegation included HRH Prince Charles, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Prime Ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair, and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis.
As dignitaries from Israel and abroad filed into the cemetery before the arrival of Peres’s coffin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shook hands and spoke briefly with Abbas, their first meeting in several years. Abbas’s presence has been seen as a significant gesture.
After Netanyahu shook hands with senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, the Prime Minister thanked the two Palestinian officials for coming to the funeral, stating, “It’s something that I appreciate very much, on behalf of our people, and on behalf of us”.
Shimon Peres died on Wednesday morning at the age of 93, after suffering a severe stroke two weeks earlier. His passing led to an outpouring of condolences and expressions of admiration from around the world, with heads of state, religious leaders and a handful of senior Arab officials praising his six-decade career as a statesman and peace maker who came to embody for many the optimistic outlook of an innovative and confident Israel.
President Reuven Rivlin delivered the first eulogy for his predecessor, stating: “Your stubborn faith in mankind and the good of people — in the victory of progress over ignorance, in the victory of hope over fear — was your eternal fountain of youth, thanks to which you were the eternal fountain of youth for all of us”.
Netanyahu, who was seated alongside Obama during the ceremony, said: “Shimon lived a life of purpose. He soared to incredible heights. He was a great man of Israel; he was a great man of the world. Israel grieves for him, the world grieves for him, but we find hope in his legacy, as does the world… I love you, we all loved you.”
President Obama said he was honoured to be in Jerusalem to pay his respects to his friend Peres. He said Palestinian leader Abbas’s presence at Peres’s funeral was a reminder of the “unfinished business of peace”.
Obama said, Peres “showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea,” the president said. “A free life in a homeland regained. A secure life in a nation that can defend itself, by itself. A full life in friendship with nations that can be counted on as allies, always… This was Shimon Peres’s life. This is the State of Israel. This is the story of the Jewish people during the last century”.
Bill Clinton, a longtime friend of Peres since his term in the White House during the height of the Oslo peace process in the 1990s, said that “Shimon could imagine all the people living in the world in peace”. He stated: “In his honour I ask that we remember his luminous smile and imagine”.
Peres has been laid to rest in the Leaders of the Nation section on Mt. Herzl. It is also the burial site of four former Prime Ministers: Yitzhak Rabin, Yitzhak Shamir, Golda Meir and Levi Eshkol.