Peres to represent Israel at Ford funeral

Vice Premier Shimon Peres will represent Israel at the funeral of US President Gerald Ford on Tuesday, a marked upgrade from 2004 when then prime minister Ariel Sharon did not send a government minister to represent Israel at the funeral of Ronald Reagan. Then minister without portfolio Natan Sharansky attended the Regan funeral in a private capacity, but not as Israel's representative. Israel's envoy to Washington at the time, Danny Ayalon, was Israel's official representative at the funeral. Sharon and Reagan had a very strained relationship as a result of the 1982 Lebanon War. In contrast, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said the decision to send Peres was intended to stress the special friendship between Israel and the US. The officials pointed out that Peres was Israel's defense minister when Ford was president, and that Ford assisted in rebuilding the IDF and re-filling its storehouses following the Yom Kippur War.