Britain's Prince William and Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein during their visit to the Crown Prince Foundation in Amman, Jordan, June 24, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
It took 70 years, but the first official visit by a member of the British Royal family will begin in Israel on Monday when Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, is scheduled to arrive in the early evening.
William, traveling without his wife, Kate (Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge) – who gave birth to their third child at the end of April – started his five-day regional tour in Jordan on Sunday.
In addition to Jordan and Israel, William will visit the Palestinian Authority. The trip is being widely characterized as William’s most high-profile and politically sensitive trip yet.
Every step that William takes in Israel and the West Bank, and every word that he utters, will be scrutinized for political meaning.
British officials have stressed in the run-up to the visit that William is an apolitical figure, and that he will not be carrying any political message.
“Over the next five days The Duke will visit Jordan, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories – and is looking forward to building a real and enduring relationship with the people of the region,” Kensington Palace tweeted as William set out for Jordan.
William was greeted at Amman Marka military airport by 23-year-old Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah. He then set off for meetings with youth and innovators – a pattern that will repeat itself in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Kensington Palace tweeted in Arabic that William’s visit to Jordan “is based on the strong links between our two countries and the royal families, who have visited each other many times over the years.”
That tweet was accompanied by pictures of King Abdullah and Queen Rania being hosted by Queen Elizabeth, and by Prince Charles on a previous trip to Jordan.
Similar pictures with Israeli counterparts are unlikely to be tweeted on Monday when he arrives in Tel Aviv, because there have not been any formal royal visits to Israel until now.
British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey said last week that the aim of William’s trip to Israel is to “celebrate the contemporary partnership between the UK and Israel.”
This trip is coming at a time of unprecedented trade and cooperation between Israel and the UK, even as significant political differences between London and Jerusalem persist, witnessed by Kensington Palace’s announcement last week that William’s visit to the Mount of Olives will be part of his visit to the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Nonetheless, ties between the two countries – according to diplomatic officials – have never been as broadly based. For instance, Some 400 Israeli firms operate in the UK and two-way trade last year reached $7 billion, a 25% increase from the year before.
With the United Kingdom due to leave the European Union, greater involvement in the Mideast – the kind of involvement symbolized by this type of trip – is viewed by some in Jerusalem as a way for London to retain some of the stature and influence on the world’s stage that it will lose by leaving the EU.
While members of the royal family have never made official state visits to Israel, Prince William’s father Prince Charles was in Israel twice, but only to attend funerals: Yitzhak Rabin’s in 1995 and Shimon Peres’s in 2016.
During the latter trip, he also visited the grave of his grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg – the mother of his father Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh – who is buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. The princess has been recognized by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” for hiding a Jewish woman and her two children in Athens during World War II.
Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II, came here in 1994 to attend the Yad Vashem ceremony honoring his grandmother, and visited her grave. William is scheduled to visit her grave as well.
William is slated to arrive early on Monday evening, and be greeted at the airport by Tourism Minister Yariv Levin. He will then travel to Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, where he will be staying during his visit.
On Tuesday, he will visit Yad Vashem, meet separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then with President Reuven Rivlin, and then travel to Jaffa to watch a soccer game with the participation of Jewish and Arab children.
In the evening, he will attend a reception at the residence of the British ambassador, where he is scheduled to speak briefly.
On Wednesday morning, the prince has two events in Tel Aviv – one a meeting with youth and the other an as-yet-unannounced cultural event – before he goes to Ramallah and a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. In the evening, he will attend a reception hosted by the British consulate-general, and speak there as well.
On Thursday William is expected to visit the Mount of Olives as well as the Western Wall, before flying back to Britain.
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