As luck would have it, President Shimon Peres woke up on Monday with a bad cold.
That would not necessarily have deterred him from flying to South Africa to
attend the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
But his doctor and his security
detail joined forces to tell him that he could not go.
Although known to
recover quickly from ailments, Peres, who returned to Israel last week after a
strenuous visit to Mexico where the altitude had caused him a spell of
dizziness, was not as fit as usual, and needed rest, his doctor told
Peres is a workaholic who immediately plunged back into duty the day
after his return from Mexico and has been working ever since, both in Jerusalem
and Tel Aviv, meeting with visiting dignitaries and addressing conferences and
other special events.
The strain would be difficult for a much younger
person, and at 90, his resilience not withstanding, Peres has to be careful his
doctor told him.
In addition, his security people were worried about his
safety, despite the close relations that Peres had with Mandela. There are
people in South Africa who have neither forgotten nor forgiven Israel’s
connection to the apartheid regime, plus the fact that in its foreign policy,
South Africa is much more favorably disposed to the Palestinians than to Israel,
and in many quarters Israel is perceived as the oppressive
Taking all this into consideration, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) decided that it was unsafe for Peres to go to South
Peres argued the point because it was of great importance to him
to pay tribute to Mandela by attending his funeral, but it was a losing battle.
The security people and his doctor remained adamant.