Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will jet off to London next week to attend the funeral of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, for his first overseas trip since his reelection in January.
According to the Prime Minister's Office, Thatcher's family specifically requested that the Israeli leader attend the funeral.
Thatcher's funeral is scheduled to take place next Wednesday at Saint Paul's Cathedral in London. Invitations to attend were sent by the office of the British prime minister to world leaders, including Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.
As Peres' schedule does not allow him to attend, Israel will be represented at the funeral by Netanyahu. Foreign Ministry sources said that Israel has asked for certain clarifications from the British Foreign Office and the British prime minister's office regarding the participation of foreign leaders in the funeral, and that Netanyahu's final participation will depend on the answers to these questions.
Netanyahu is expected to remain in London for two days and may take advantage of his visit to meet with his British counterpart, David Cameron. The two have met only once since Cameron's election, in May of 2011 in London. He will likely also meet with other world leaders who are in town for the funeral.
Margaret Thatcher is one of the leaders who most inspired Netanyahu, especially with regard to his economic ideology. After hearing the news of her death, Netanyahu published a message in which he called her "a great leader. A woman of principles, possessing resolve, self-confidence, strength, a great woman."
He also noted that Thatcher "was a staunch friend of the State of Israel and of the Jewish people, and inspired a generation of political leaders."
Thatcher will be given a military funeral, just as Princess Diana was in 1997. The funeral procession will set out from the Palace of Westminster. From there, the coffin will travel a distance of three kilometers to St. Paul's Cathedral with a military escort.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to turn out to show their final respects, while family members, former and current British government officials and several dozen foreign leaders are expected to participate in the funeral ceremony.
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