Britain's Prince William (center) and his wife, Kate, appear on a balcony at the Mons Town Hall with Belgian outgoing prime minister Elio Di Rupo in 2014.
(photo credit: YVES HERMAN / REUTERS)
Prince William will not be carrying a political message when he arrives in the region next week for the first-ever official visit by a senior member of the royal family, and is simply coming to Israel to “celebrate” Israel-UK ties, British Ambassador David Quarrey said on Thursday.
“There is no political message, the duke is not a political figure,” Quarrey told reporters at a briefing at his Ramat Gan residence where William, the Duke of Cambridge, will hold a reception for some 350 people next Tuesday night.
“He will be here to see a bit of the country, meet some of the people here, also to get a flavor of the country, see what’s happening here – some of the extraordinary success in tech, some of the culture here,” Quarrey said. “ He wants to get under the skin of the country, and I hope that we will be successful in helping him to do that.”
Quarrey said the aim of the trip is to “celebrate the contemporary partnership between the UK and Israel.” He said that the relationship between the two countries is better now than ever before in terms of trade, science and hi-tech cooperation.
“I hope the Duke’s visit will help us showcase that cooperation,” he said.
Quarrey downplayed Kensington Palace’s characterization of the Mount of Olives and east Jerusalem as “Occupied Palestinian Territory” in the itinerary it released last week, a characterization that Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin – who is running for mayor of the city in October – took sharp exception to.
“United Jerusalem is the capital of Israel for over 3,000 years,” Elkin said in a Facebook post. “No distortion in the preparatory pages of this or that visit will change the reality.”
But Quarrey said, “All the terminology in announcing the p
rogram was consistent with years of practice by the British government – it is consistent with decades of British government policy.”
William, who will be arriving without his wife, Kate, but with a small numbers of advisers and a traveling press of some 40 people, will leave the UK on Sunday for Jordan. He will spend Sunday and Monday in Jordan, arriving in Israel on Monday evening.
He will be staying at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which housed the headquarters of the British Mandatory authorities and was bombed by the Irgun in 1946, killing 91 people.
On Tuesday he is scheduled to visit Yad Vashem, followed by separate meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his residence on Balfour Street, and President Reuven Rivlin at the President’s Residence.
On the same day, William will attend a soccer match in Jaffa with both Jewish and Arab children, participate in an event in Tel Aviv alongside Mayor Ron Huldai, and be the guest of honor at a reception at Quarrey’s residence in Ramat Gan. He is scheduled to speak briefly at that reception.
On Wednesday he will visit the Beit Ha’ir Museum in Tel Aviv and also meet with start-up entrepreneurs and Israeli youth.
In the afternoon he will travel to Ramallah and a meeting there with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. According to the itinerary put out by Kensington Palace, “The rest of the afternoon’s program in the West Bank will include events that focus on the issues facing refugee communities; opportunities to celebrate Palestinian culture, music and food; and a chance to meet a number of young Palestinians.”
In the evening he will speak at a reception in his honor at the residence of the consul-general in Jerusalem.
The two segments of William’s trip here are being kept apart and compartmentalized – with the embassy in Tel Aviv taking care of the first part in Tel Aviv and west Jerusalem, and the consulate-general in Jerusalem responsible for the itinerary in Ramallah and east Jerusalem.
According to the statement issued by Kensington palace, “The next day’s program [Thursday] in the Occupied Palestinian Territories will begin with a short briefing on the history and geography of Jerusalem’s Old City from a viewing point at the Mount of Olives. From here His Royal Highness will travel a short distance to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene where he will pay his respects at the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice.”
Details of his visit to east Jerusalem, including when he will visit the Western Wall and who will provide the briefing on the history and geography of Jerusalem, have not been announced, though it is expected to be an employee at the consulate-general.
William is scheduled to leave Thursday afternoon.
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