Israeli top leaders not attending Mandela funeral

Mon Dec 9, 2013 12:16pm EST
 
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By Dan Williams

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Neither Israel's prime minister nor president will attend South Africa's commemorations of the late Nelson Mandela this week, officials said, a notable absence at events expected to draw more than 70 world leaders.

Palestinians, who hail South Africa's first black leader as an inspiration in a conflict with what they call Israeli "apartheid", will be represented by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who praised Mandela as "a freedom fighter who rejected violence", will not attend Tuesday's ceremony in Johannesburg due to the costs of travel and security, aides said. President Shimon Peres, who is 90, had been advised by his doctors not to make the trip.

"The president is recovering from flu and doctors advised him not to fly," a spokesman for Peres said.

The foreign ministry said Yuli Edelstein, speaker of Israel's parliament, would attend instead.

Like Mandela, Peres is a winner of the Nobel peace prize. As defense minister in the 1970s, he was also involved in military and trade ties with South Africa's white rulers. In 2010, he denied a newspaper report that Israel had offered to provide the apartheid state with nuclear weapons in 1975.

(Editing by Jeffrey Heller and Ralph Boulton)