Leader of the Arab Joint List Ayman Odeh (2L) with MKs Jamal Zahalka (2R) and Hanin Zoabi at a rally marking the Nakba anniversary at Tel Aviv University, May 15, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90) (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Nakba Tel Aviv University

Despite the late Shimon Peres’ tireless peacemaking efforts, the Arab Israeli leadership has uttered not a word of condolence to the family, nor will they attend the funeral.

By: Terri Nir, United with Israel

More than 90 delegations from 70 countries have confirmed their participation in the funeral of former President Shimon Peres Friday morning, including U.S. President Barack Obama, who is scheduled to deliver one of the eulogies.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will also attend, as will representatives of Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel. Among Arab leaders, however, they are the exceptions.

The Arab world has remained largely silent since the passing of the legendary Israeli statesman. A Hamas spokesman urged Abbas to stay home.

Most deafening, however, was the silence of the Israeli Members of Knesset of the Joint List – an amalgamation of four Arab parties.

“Complex messages can be conveyed at a more opportune time,” said Joint List head Ayman Odeh, in response to criticism on Army Radio Thursday morning.

“In the 1990s, Peres’ initiative led to the greater legitimacy of the Arab population within Israeli politics, and that is to his credit. No less important is [the Oslo Accords]. I am very respectful, and I chose to be quiet in this period,” Odeh said.

Nevertheless, he continued, “I will not participate in Peres’ funeral. I am not part of all the commotion about the [Dimona] nuclear reactor, about the year 1948 [when the State of Israel was established] and about [his] cooperation with [first Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion.”

Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, is credited with laying the foundation for Israel’s nuclear program, but in recent decades he has been widely recognized for his efforts to promote peaceful relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, particularly between Israelis and Palestinian Arabs. In 1996 he founded the Peres Peace Center, whose mission is “to promote lasting peace and advancement in the Middle East by fostering tolerance, economic and technological development, innovation, cooperation and well-being – all in the spirit of Peres’ vision.”

A Lack of Appreciation

The refusal of Israel’s Arab lawmakers, therefore, was upsetting to Peres’ son-in-law and physician, Dr. Rafi Walden.

“I am surprised and disappointed by them,” he told Channel 2 News. “There was a famous saying of [late Israeli diplomat] Abba Eban that the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. This time, the Arabs of Israel, unfortunately, are missing an unprecedented opportunity to express their appreciation for a man who did more than any other person in Israel to bring peace and love between Jews and Arabs, both within Israel and between Israel and its neighbors, and it’s a real shame.”

Furthermore, Walden said, the Arab MKs refusing to attend Peres’ funeral are “causing hostility,” instead of taking the “opportunity to express their solidarity with that segment of Israeli society that extends its hand to them” in peace.