Amjad Iraqi at the London Review of Books:
When Peres died last month, many Palestinians resented the national and international outpouring of praise he received. They were especially angered when President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian Authority (PA) officials went to the funeral in Jerusalem; Abbas had to getpermission from the Israeli army to enter the city. Ayman Odeh, the head of the Joint List of Arab political parties in the Knesset, sent his condolences to Peres’s family but refused to go to the funeral. ‘This is a national day of mourning in which I have no place,’ he said. ‘Not in the narrative, not in the symbols that exclude us, not in the stories of Peres as a man who built up Israel’s defences.’
Israelis were shocked by these reactions. Since his presidency, Peres was revered in Israel as a peacemaker, a founding father, and a moral compass. He was an architect of the Oslo Accords and the peace treaty with Jordan, a Nobel laureate, and a sponsor of Jewish-Arab coexistence programmes through the Peres Centre for Peace. But he had not been a popular politician for much of his career: he was distrusted by his colleagues (‘a tireless schemer’, Yitzhak Rabin called him), and his brief stints as prime minister ended in political failure and lost elections.
Defenders of Peres’s legacy argue that he shed years of hawkish politics to become, in David Grossman’s words, a statesman who ‘symbolised the willingness for compromise with the Palestinians’.
The Palestinians, however, cannot forget the hawk so easily.