Canadian delegation arrives in Israel for Shimon Peres funeral
Politicians past and present praise efforts of Israel's 9th president to broker Mideast peace
A Canadian delegation of politicians past and present paid tribute to former Israeli leader Shimon Peres today as they departed to attend his state funeral in Jerusalem on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a flight out of Ottawa on Thursday along with former prime minister Jean Chrétien, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion and interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose.
The flight arrived in Tel Aviv just after 6 p.m. ET.
Chrétien called Peres a "friend" and a "great man."
"He's been respected in the world for the last 30 years and everywhere he went, people were happy to meet him and they wanted to listen to him," he said. "He must have had a lot of influence."
Chrétien recalled how Peres gave him "hell" when he left politics, telling him that "winners never quit, and he
Peres, Israel's ninth president, died Wednesday from complications following a stroke. He was 93.
Ambrose said she was honoured to be invited to attend the official farewell for a man who leaves an "incredible legacy."
"It doesn't matter whether it's a Liberal government or a Conservative government, Canada and Israel are great friends, and Shimon Peres really is an iconic figure not only to Israelis, but to Canadians and to people all over the world — someone who fought for peace between Palestine and Israel, and really he is a symbol of so much more that needs to be done."
She called Israel a "beacon" of pluralism and democracy in a difficult part of the world
Former prime minister Stephen Harper will also be attending the state funeral, and made his own travel arrangements. The Prime Minister's Office said NDP Leader Tom Mulcair, all premiers and all former prime ministers were invited to be part of the Canadian delegation.
Mulcair is unable to attend due to his son's wedding.
Trudeau offered his condolences on behalf of Canadians on Wednesday. He said he was grateful to have had the opportunity to meet the man who led an "extraordinary life."
"He regaled me with stories of friendship with my father and his deep affection for Canadians," Trudeau said.
Scores of other world leaders are expected to attend, including U.S. President Barack Obama, former president Bill Clinton and French President François Hollande.
Clinton was president when Peres helped negotiate a historic interim peace agreement with the Palestinians in 1993. The following year, Peres shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
The memorial service for Peres is expected to be the largest such gathering in Israel since the funeral for Rabin, who was assassinated by a Jewish nationalist in 1995.