Prince William to make British royal family’s first ever official visit to Israel and Palestinian territories
Region has long been seen unofficially as a diplomatic minefield for state visits, leaving many curious as to the timing and purpose of such a trip
Bethan McKernan writes in The Independent on 1st March 2018.
Reproduced here with thanks to The Independent.
Prince William is to become the first ever member of the British royal family to make an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, Kensington Palace has said.
The trip is due to take place this summer and will also take in Jordan. The Prince is expected to meet with politicians and charities while in the region.
The royal family makes state visits at the request of the Government – leaving many curious as the timing and political motivations behind the trip.
Israel and the Palestinian territories have long been seen unofficially as a diplomatic minefield for state visits – and lacking the strong economic ties that underpin the UK’s other relationships in the Middle East, such as arms sales to Saudi Arabia.
Alistair Burt, the minister of state for the Middle East, said the Prince’s visit is an “important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region”.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and Duke of Kent visited Israel in 2007 and 1998 respectively, and Prince Charles has twice visited in a private capacity for funerals, making the second in line to the throne’s upcoming trip by far the most high profile.
The trip will be William’s first to the Middle East, and he will be the first member of the royal family to ever visit the Palestinian territories.
A Hebrew language press release referred to the “Palestinian Authority”, causing some consternation in Palestinian circles, while the English language version used “Occupied Palestinian Territories”, the official British terminology for Israel’s 1967 annexation of parts of East Jerusalem and parts of the West Bank.
Israeli officials have previously said the royal family’s frequent high-profile visits to Middle Eastern states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are a source of frustration. Dozens of invitations have been made and quietly declined over the years.
“We’re the only democracy in the Middle East and so you ask why do the royals go to the Arab dictatorships around us but they don’t come here?” a senior official told The Telegraph in 2015.
On Wednesday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that William’s visit will be “historic” and the Prince will be received “with great affection”.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the announcement.
“We look forward to contributing to strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two peoples,” a statement from his office said.
Amnesty International has called on Prince William to “visit some of the Palestinian communities affected by 50 years of Israeli occupation” and recognise the “moral strength” of the global campaign to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.
The last royal to visit the region was Prince Charles, who attended the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2016 in a private capacity.
During the trip he also made a secretive visit to his grandmother’s grave in occupied East Jerusalem.
- Image: The trip has been described by the UK Government as an ‘important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region’ Reuters