Obama landed in Israel for Peres' funeral, Highway 1 closed down

US President Barack Obama’s Air Force One landed at Ben Gurion Airport for Shimon Peres’ funeral, which started at 09:00 AM. All roads leading to Mount Herzl are temporarily closed.
Air Force One landing at Ben Gurion Airport Photo credit: Channel 2 News

US President Barack Obama landed this morning (Friday) at Ben Gurion Airport in order to attend the funeral of former President and Prime Minister of Israel Shimon Peres. Due to security concerns, Obama will not arrive at Mount Herzl via helicopter as planned originally but via motorcade. This change led to the closure of Highway 1 in both directions from 7:30 AM.

Heavy traffic jams are expected on different routes leading to Jerusalem such as Highway 6, 431, 38, and 443. Police are asking the public to refrain from using these routes throughout the day and tomorrow.

Other than Obama, members of the US delegation include Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Advisor Susan Rice and several other Congress members who will join former President Bill Clinton. Another delegation arrived from Great Britain including Prince Charles, former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson. The European Union sent President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) sent Director-General Irina Bokova. French President François Hollande arrived in Israel along with former President Nicolas Sarkozy and other officials. The German delegation will be headed by President Joachim Gauck and Foreign Affairs Minister rank-Walter Steinmeier.

Former US President Bill Clinton, yesterday Photo credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

The Prime Ministers of Canada, Sweden, Holland and Italy also arrived for the funeral. They will be joined by the Presidents of Mexico, Ukraine, Greece, Poland, Switzerland and Austria as well as the King of Spain. Obama was the last one to arrive among the leaders and will probably be the first to depart.

Obama is expected to deliver a eulogy at the funeral. “A light has gone out but the hope he gave us will burn forever,” Obama wrote when he found out about Peres’ death. “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.”

“I will always be grateful that I was able to call Shimon my friend,” he added. “I first visited him in Jerusalem when I was a senator and when I asked for his advice, he told me that while people often say that the future belongs to the young, it’s the present that really belongs to the young. And he was right.”

Obama and Peres in 2012 Photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO/ Channel 2 News

Yesterday, Obama ordered all US flags at federal buildings to be lowered to half-staff out of respect for Peres’ passing. “As a mark of respect for the memory of Shimon Peres, former President and Prime Minister of Israel, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff,” read the announcement released by the White House. Obama ordered that the flag be lowered at the White House, all US embassies, all federal, public and military buildings and grounds throughout the United States and its territories until sunset today.

US flag at half-staff Photo credit: Twitter/ Channel 2 News

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