Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will not be attending Tuesday’s memorial for the late South African president Nelson Mandela, it was announced on Sunday night.
The reason for the decision is the high cost of the flight as well as the security considerations involved, which would make it nearly impossible to plan a trip on such short notice.
It is unknown whether Netanyahu is still planning to attend Mandela’s funeral, set for next Sunday.
Mandela, who fought against apartheid in his country and eventually became its first black president, died this past Thursday at the age of 95.
He was known as a supporter of PA Arabs, saying once that “if the Palestinians are not free, no one is free”, a statement which anti-Israel groups have taken advantage of to accuse Israel of applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Arabs.
Mandela also once criticized the U.S. through Israel, hinting in 2003 that then- President George W. Bush had no foresight because “Their friend Israel has got weapons of mass destruction, but because it’s their ally they won’t ask the UN to get rid of it. They just want the oil.”
Following his death, Netanyahu said in a statement that Mandela “was one of the greatest figures of our time.”
“He was the father of his nation, a visionary, a freedom fighter who opposed violence. He set a personal example to his people during his long years in prison. He worked to heal the rifts within South African society and succeeded with his personality in preventing outbreaks of racist hatred. He will be remembered as the father of the new South Africa and, first and foremost, as a moral leader," said Netanyahu.
Leaders in the Palestinian Authority have taken advantage of Mandela’s death and likened his fight against apartheid to their own struggle to achieve a Palestinian state on what they claim is “occupied Israeli territory.”