Who Will Represent Israel at Mandela’s Funeral? (UPDATE)
With former South African President Nelson Mandela scheduled to be laid to rest Tuesday in Johannesburg, it is still unclear who – if anyone – will be the official representative of the State of Israel at the funeral. This historic event is expected to be attended by approximately 70 leaders from around the world.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had begun to prepare for the flight to South Africa, but decided last night to cancel his trip due to “heavy costs.” The office of Israeli President Shimon Peres is currently exploring the option of taking a morning flight to Johannesburg.
Sources close to Peres told Israel’s Walla! News that at the president’s official residence yesterday deliberations were held on the subject of having Peres fly to South Africa. These preparations were halted after it became clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu was going to be Israel’s official representative at the event.
However, the cost of the trip, including the necessary security arrangements, would have been approximately NIS 7 million. As a result, it was decided at 10 o’clock Sunday night to cancel Netanyahu’s trip.
The last second cancellation has left President Peres in an awkward diplomatic situation since he had already backed out of a planned flight on the assumption that his Prime Minister would be attending the funeral.
UPDATE: On Monday afternoon it was reported that President Peres would not travel to South Africa for the funeral on health grounds.
“The president will not be going to South Africa,” the president’s spokesperson said. “He’s recovering from flu, and he’s taking his doctor’s advice not to travel. He really wanted to go.”
Instead, either Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein or Justice Minister Tzipi Livni will represent Israel at the funeral, The Times of Israel reported.