Prince William to make 1st official UK royal visit to Israel
Prince William, Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and the second in line for the throne, will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories this summer, the first official visit by a senior member of Britain’s royal family in Israel's 70-year history.
Prince William will make the first official visit by a member of the British royal family to Israel and the Palestinian-controlled territories this summer, Kensington Palace said Thursday.
The visit by the second in line to the throne “is at the request of Her Majesty’s government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities,” the palace said in a statement. No dates have been announced.
The prince will make the trip alone as his wife, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton, is due to give birth to the couple’s third child in April.
Overseas royal visits are made at the request of the British government. William will be the first close relation of Queen Elizabeth II to make an official visit to Israel, following trips made previously by the monarch’s cousins the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester.
Other foreign trips made by royals, such as attendance at funerals or weddings, are not made at the request of Britain’s Foreign Office and are therefore not classed as official visits.
Prince Charles attended the 2016 funeral of former President Shimon Peres in a private capacity.
Kensington Palace said the trip "has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that "this is a historic visit" and William "will be received here with great affection."
President Reuven Rivlin, Israel's ceremonial head of state, said he looked forward to welcoming the prince.
"A very special guest, and a very special present for our 70th year of independence," he tweeted.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said it was an important visit "which we hope will contribute to strengthening ties of friendship between the two peoples."
Britain’s junior foreign minister Alistair Burt said the tour was an “important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region”.
Royal expert Robert Jobson said a high-profile visit to Israel had not been arranged before as it is like a “hot potato,” hard to handle and politically sensitive.
The announcement came amid an ongoing crisis over the status of Jerusalem, after US President Donald Trump controversially declared the disputed city the capital of Israel.
The invitation to the royals was extended by President Rivlin to British foreign minister Boris Johnson, during a working visit to Jerusalem in March 2017.
Later in the year in London the two countries’ leaders celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, which played a key role in the creation of the state of Israel.
Written by Britain’s then foreign minister, the declaration announced the UK’s backing for the establishment within Palestine, then a region of the Ottoman Empire, of “a national home for the Jewish people.”
It shocked the Arab world and has always been condemned by the Palestinians, who held rallies to protest the anniversary.
If William is able to sidestep such controversy, Jobson suggested the royal tour could be a welcome distraction for Britons in the uncertain climate surrounding their country’s departure from the EU.
“There are clearly lots of diversionary tactics around... and of course this is a pretty big story which deflects from other things going on,” he said.
Reuters, The Associated Press and AFP contributed to this report.