Hundreds pay final respects to Israel’s Shimon Peres

TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 29 (UPI) — Hundreds of Israelis, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, honored former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres as he lay in state at the parliament building in Jerusalem on Thursday.

Former President Bill Clinton was among the first foreign dignitaries to pay respects to Peres, who died following complications from a stroke at age 93. Clinton was among those who helped usher in the Oslo peace accords in the 1990s, which resulted in Peres winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 jointly with then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat.

“I’ll never forget how happy he was 23 years ago when he signed the Oslo accords on the White House lawn, heralding a more hopeful era in Israeli-Palestinian relations,” Clinton said.

President Barack Obama is among the world leaders expected to attend Peres’ funeral on Friday. Obama ordered U.S. flags be flown at half-staff in Peres’ memory.

Obama said flying the nation’s flags at half-staff serves “as a mark of respect” for Peres, who also served as president of Israel. Other areas include public buildings, military posts, U.S. embassies and consular offices. The order expires Friday.

The U.S. flag has rarely been used to mark the death of foreign leaders. In 2013, Obama issued the order to honor the death of South African leader Nelson Mandela. In 2005, President George W. Bush marked the death of Pope John Paul II in the same manner.

“There are few people who we share this world with who change the course of human history, not just through their role in human events, but because they expand our moral imagination and force us to expect more of ourselves. My friend Shimon was one of those people,” Obama said.

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