Dozens of world leaders are en route to Johannesburg, South Africa, to attend a memorial service for the nation’s iconic first black president, Nelson Mandela, but there will be some noticeable absences at the service. Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the Dalai Lama will be attending Mandela’s memorial service on Tuesday.
Though Netanyahu will not be flying to South Africa to pay his respects to Mandela, he says that his absence is about cost, not disrespect. The Times of Israel reports that Netanyahu was “seriously considering” going to Mandela’s memorial service, but declined “when it was clear that the financial and logistic outlays” of the journey would be vast.
Such a trip would have reportedly cost Netanyahu some $2 million, including $800,000 for the private flight and $910,000 for security detail and travel. At the moment, it is unclear who will represent Israel at Mandela’s memorial service.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama will also be absent from the ceremony, though he has not clarified why he will not attend. In the past, the Dalai Lama has twice been denied a visa to South Africa, once in 2009 and again in 2011, after being invited to speak at Bishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday celebrations.
According to the Telegraph, some 91 heads of state, including President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President François Hollande and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are set to attend the memorial service in Johannesburg’s FNB stadium. Barack Obama and three living U.S presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter) will be in attendance, as will 26 members of Congress. Approximately 80,000 mourners are expected to attend the tribute to Mandela overall, including celebrity guests such as Bono and Oprah Winfrey.
The former president’s body will not actually be present at the memorial service, though his casket will be paraded through the capital of Pretoria for three days, allowing South Africans to pay their respects in person. On Sunday, Mandela will be laid to rest in his home village of Qunu in an official state funeral.