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by Keren Setton

JERUSALEM, Sept. 30 (Xinhua) -- A unique career ended in an unprecedented funeral for Israeli leader Shimon Peres, who was laid to rest in Jerusalem on Friday morning.

Thousands accompanied Peres on his last journey to the VIP section of Israel's national cemetery in Jerusalem. He was buried next to two former prime ministers.

Among the thousands were tens of world leaders, including two U.S. Presidents -- Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Media attention was on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who made a rare trip to Jerusalem to honor the late Israeli president.

Shortly before the ceremony began, Abbas shook hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two spoke briefly, a rare occasion in recent years.

The last round of talks between Palestinians and Israelis broke down in April 2014, much to the dismay of Shimon Peres who was president at the time.

Throughout his career, Shimon Peres was a staunch advocate for peace with the Palestinians and an establishment of an independent state for them.

For many years, his support for a two-state solution all but ostracized him from the political scene. Gradually, however, many Israelis became accustomed to the idea.

Peres, who was part of Israel's history from its establishment, was witness to every major event.

In a heartfelt eulogy, Netanyahu said he had learned to love him although they were far from each other on the political spectrum.

"I loved you. We all loved you. Farewell Shimon. Dear man. Great leader," said the Israeli prime minister.

But Netanyahu made no mention of Abbas in his speech.

When he welcomed the tens of dignitaries from abroad at the beginning of his eulogy, he did not list the Palestinian leader.

Obama made certain to remind him. It was yet another awkward diplomatic moment between the two leaders who share a tense relationship.

"President Abbas' presence here is a gesture and a reminder of the unfinished business of peace," Obama said in a not so subtle nudge to Netanyahu.

Obama and Netanyahu have differed for years on how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict with the Palestinian issue at the core of it.

"He (Peres) showed us that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist idea. A secure life in a nation that can defend itself, by itself," the U.S. president said.

This is precisely where Netanyahu and Obama do not agree.

While Netanyahu has said repeatedly he is in favor of an independent Palestinian state, settlement activity during his tenure has intensified. Palestinians and many in the international community believe the current Israeli government is creating facts on the ground that make a future Palestinian state unviable.

For much of his political career, Peres was ridiculed for his ideas on how to solve the conflict with the Palestinians. Many Israelis still believe peace is an unrealistic goal.

Israelis and Palestinians are entrenched in months of tit-for-tat violence that has taken the lives of hundreds of Palestinians and tens of Israelis.

Throughout the decades-long conflict, Peres remained optimistic.

Former U.S. President Clinton praised him for his long-lasting vision.

"He started off life as Israel's brightest student, became its best teacher and ended up its biggest dreamer. He lived 93 years in a state of constant wonder over the unbelievable potential of all the rest of us to rise above our wounds, our resentments, our fears to make the most of today and claim the promise of tomorrow," said Clinton.

As U.S. President in 1993, he had hosted the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians which Peres was instrumental in forging.

In their eulogies, both Clinton and Obama emphasized they believed Peres was not naive in his dreams as public opinion in Israel often dictated.

Towards the end of 1995, in the days preceding the assassination of his political partner Yitzhak Rabin, Peres was also the subject of incitement for his dovish positions.

Current Israeli President Reuven Rivlin ended his eulogy with an apology.

"We should also apologize to you. It was OK to differ with you, your opponents had the duty to voice their opinion but there were years when red lines were crossed between ideological rivalry and actions that have no place," Rivlin said.

A heartfelt apology from an Israeli leader was coupled with hope from U.S. President Obama. "Now the work is in the hand of Israel's next generation and its friends," he said.

Obama will finish his term in a few months, leaving Netanyahu to work with a new administration.

On a clear-skied sunny Jerusalem morning, Israeli soldiers gradually covered the grave site with dirt, and this symbolic act marked the end of an era in Israel's annals.

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