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Tensions crackle at Peres funeral over elusive Mideast peace deal

Even in death, Shimon Peres seemed to advance the Middle East peace process — at least for a moment, anyway.

Attendees at Friday’s funeral for the late Israeli leader were abuzz when Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas arrived and shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a rare personal encounter between the two men during a years-long pause in efforts to come to a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

The two shook hands during a gathering that attracted a slew of world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who still has a few months left to make a last-ditch effort to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“Long time, long time,” Abbas told the Israeli leader, according to multiple media reports. Netanyahu is quoted as welcoming Abbas by saying: “It’s something that I appreciate very much on behalf of our people and on behalf of us.”

Abbas was given a front-row seat during the service in Jerusalem, but he did not have a speaking role, according to media accounts. In his speech, Obama thanked the Palestinian leader for coming, saying his “presence here is a reminder of the unfinished business of peace.”

“The last of the founding generation is now gone,” Obama said of Peres. He added in Hebrew: “Toda rabah haver yakar,” or “thank you so much, dear friend.”

 

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