OSLO – Cannons went off and bells chimed to “Jerusalem of Gold” as President Peres’s motorcade drove up to the Royal Palace in Oslo on Monday.
Hundreds of soldiers with bayonets and feathered hats stood ramrod straight in two rows facing a gazebo in the plaza in front of the palace, under which King Harald V and Crown Prince Haakon, in military uniforms, and Crown Princess Mette-Marit, in a white coat, white gloves and flowers in her hair, stood waiting for their guest.
Peres’s limousine, with motorcycles in front and behind, drove up to the yellow palace grounds up to a line of schoolchildren waving Norwegian and Israeli flags.
The king met Peres at his car and accompanied him to the gazebo, and they stood as a military marching band played “Hatikva,” followed by the Norwegian anthem.
Then the king and the president inspected the soldiers, shook hands with the mayor of Oslo and the president of the parliament and entered the palace with the prince and princess in tow.
The pomp and circumstance continued inside the palace, where Peres held a short meeting with the royals before meeting with local and Israeli press.
The Israelis were focused on the presidency, while the Norwegian journalists threw softballs about peace to Peres who, as usual, said he’s “hopeful and optimistic.”
“I have great memories from Norway,” Peres stated. “This is where we tried to make peace with the Palestinians for the first time.”
The president charmed his local hosts, saying that in Norway “the weather is cold, but the people are warm.”
“Norway is the pearl of humanity, built on human values, and seeks to keep people equal and free,” he added.
Peres called the honor guard a throwback and thanked the king for the great honor.
The president’s warm reception continued at Storting, the Norwegian parliament.
The surrounding streets were decorated with Israeli flags for the first time ever.
Even the anti-Israel protesters waited until after Peres left the Storting, though that was due to police instructions.
There were less than 50 demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and handing out flyers calling for a boycott against Israel, who quietly listened to speeches and didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic.
Even Israel’s charge d’affaires in Norway, George Deek, walked through the crowd at one point, and only the Israeli press gave him a second look.