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Delegations from 75 countries pay tribute to Shimon Peres

The funeral of Shimon Peres, who passed away Wednesday at 93, brought together delegations from 75 countries -- even those with a bitter history of war. After shaking hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu eulogized his former rival as a "great man." Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama also spoke of Peres' legacy. William Brangham reports.

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    Thousands gathered in Jerusalem today, as Israel laid to rest one of its founding fathers.

    Shimon Peres, the 93-year-old former president and prime minister, died on Wednesday.

    William Brangham has our report on the funeral.


    The funeral service for Shimon Peres drew delegations from 75 countries, and even temporarily united adversaries. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife.

    The casket was carried in, a military rabbi sang traditional prayers, and Netanyahu spoke in praise of his longtime political rival.

  • BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through translator):

    He brought arguments from the left. I brought arguments from the right. Eventually, like two tired boxers, we stopped arguing.

    I saw in his eyes and I think he saw in mine that the determination emanates from deep self-persuasion and devotion to the cause, securing the country's future.


    Netanyahu has taken a hard line on dealing with the Palestinians, while Peres was Israel's leading proponent of conciliation. But the prime minister, speaking in English, hailed the Nobel Peace Prize winner as a visionary.


    Shimon lived a life of purpose. He soared to incredible heights. He swept so many with his vision and his hope. 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.


    The failed search for peace in the region dominated the eulogies. Former President Bill Clinton was in office when Peres negotiated the 1993 Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.

    BILL CLINTON, Former President of the United States: He started off life as Israel's brightest student, became its best teacher, and ended up its biggest dreamer.

    So, for the rest of our lives, whenever the good we seek to do hits a stone wall, or the hand of friendship we extend meets only a cold stare, in his honor, I ask that we remember Shimon Peres' luminous smile and imagine.


    President Obama has sought in vain a final Middle East settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. He called for building on the foundation that Peres laid.


    We gather here in the knowledge that Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled. The region is going through a chaotic time. Threats are ever-present. And yet he didn't stop dreaming and he didn't stop working.

    The last of the founding generation is now gone. Shimon accomplished enough things in life for 1,000 men, but he understood that it is better to live to the very end of his time on Earth with a longing not for the past, but for the dreams that have not yet come true, an Israel that is secure in a just and lasting peace with its neighbors.


    After the service, a military honor guard carried Peres' casket to its burial site, and he was laid to rest before a crowd of family, friends and world leaders.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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