Members of the Israeli Knesset guard stand around the coffin of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres during his funeral at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016
Members of the Israeli Knesset guard stand around the coffin of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres during his funeral at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016 © Menahem Kahana - POOL/AFP
Members of the Israeli Knesset guard stand around the coffin of former Israeli president and prime minister Shimon Peres during his funeral at the Mount Herzl national cemetery in Jerusalem on September 30, 2016
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Delphine Matthieussent, AFP
Last updated: January 1, 1970

For many Israelis, Peres's death leaves behind few peacemakers

The death of Nobel laureate Shimon Peres led to a surge of nostalgia in Israel over his peace efforts, but his ideals have become increasingly absent from the country's political scene.

The former president and prime minister won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his role in negotiating the Oslo accords with the Palestinians and spent the latter years of his life defending his pursuit of the goals they represented.

But more than two decades later, the peace process that the Oslo accords began has stagnated, and Israeli politics has undergone a marked shift to the right.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is seen as the most right-wing in Israel's history, and key members of his coalition say openly that they oppose a Palestinian state.

"Even though world leaders sing the praises of Peres as a hero of peace, in that area, Peres was a has-been," Yossi Alpher, former aide to ex-prime minister Ehud Barak, said of the last remaining founding father of Israel, who died Wednesday at age 93.

Netanyahu has joined in praising Peres even though the two men were political rivals.

At Peres's funeral on Friday, Netanyahu in his eulogy called him a "great man of the world" and recalled late-night discussions with him on the future of Israel.

"He said that peace was true security -- if there is peace, there will be security," Netanyahu said at the funeral in Jerusalem attended by a range of world leaders.

"I told him, 'Shimon, in the Middle East, security is an essential condition for peace, and for the establishment of peace' ... My friends, you know what surprising conclusion I came to? We were both right."

After Peres's death, Netanyahu had poignantly noted that it was the first day in the existence of Israel without him, referring to his presence at the founding of the country in 1948.

An estimated 50,000 people streamed past his coffin as it lay in state outside parliament on Thursday, bringing together Israelis of all backgrounds and political beliefs.

But while Peres was widely lauded both in Israel and abroad for his transformation from hawk to peace advocate and statesman, his death will have little impact on current Israeli politics and diplomacy, a number of analysts said.

Peres served as president between 2007-2014, but that role in Israel is largely ceremonial.

- 'Learn lessons' -

Ilan Greilsammer, political science professor at Bar Ilan University, said that Peres had ceased to have much influence in both areas as he grew older.

"For numerous years, he had been in the role of the sage," he said.

"He benefited from a moral authority, but wasn't involved with the activist left, which is in any case in bad shape."

Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for the Oslo accords, which envisioned an independent Palestinian state.

But a year later, Rabin was assassinated by a Jewish extremist opposed to the agreements, while in 2000, the bloody second Palestinian intifada erupted.

Islamist movement Hamas, which calls for Israel's destruction, has also come to power in the Gaza Strip.

Many Israelis have since turned their backs on peace and the Oslo accords, while polls show that the Labour party, which Peres once led, has dropped significantly in popularity.

No charismatic leader has emerged from the young activist guard.

While many Israelis still say they support a two-state solution in theory, Netanyahu himself ruled it out ahead of 2015 elections only to later backtrack.

Settlement construction in the occupied West Bank has meanwhile continued, slowly eating away at the land Palestinians view as part of their future state.

Gun, knife and car-ramming attacks by young Palestinians in recent months have only increased the bitterness between the two sides.

"World leaders who go to the funeral for Peres should know that the Oslo process has been discredited for years," said Alpher.

"And that we should -- Israelis, Palestinians, the international community -- learn lessons from it, which Peres never did."

While Peres's peace efforts are being lauded, his role as the architect of Israel's undeclared nuclear programme may prove his more lasting contribution.

Israel is now considered the Middle East's sole nuclear-armed nation.

"I prefer to remember Peres for his contribution to Israel's security," Alpher said.

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