Britain's Prince William attends the first annual Royal Foundation Forum held at Aviva in London, February 28, 2018 . REUTERS/Chris Jackson/Pool.
(photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS JACKSON)
Better late than never.
For the first time since British Mandatory rule here ended seven decades ago, a member of the royal family – Prince William – is scheduled to make a visit to Israel.
Kensington Palace announced the visit in a tweet on Thursday, saying “the Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian territories in the Summer.”
The visit, it said, “is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the news. “We welcome the announcement that Prince William will be coming to Israel,” Netanyahu said in a statement. “It is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm.”
While members of the royal family have never made state visits to Israel, they have traveled widely in the Arab world. 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 Prince Phillip, who is buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. The princess has been recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations” for hiding a Jewish women and her two children in Athens during World War II.
Phillip came here in 1994 to attend the Yad Vashem ceremony honoring her, and visited her grave, but the Foreign Office took pains then to stress that his visit was private.
Netanyahu, who met Prince Charles on the sidelines of a climate change conference in Paris in 2015, invited him at the time to visit the country – an invitation numerous Israeli officials have extended to the royal family over the years.The Telegraph
at the time quoted a Foreign Office source as saying that, “until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the royal family can’t really go there.”
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 seen 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.
President Reuven Rivlin wrote on his Twitter account that William will be a “very special guest,” and that his visit will be “a very special present for our 70th year of independence.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s office termed the visit an important one “which we hope will contribute to strengthening ties of friendship between the two peoples.”
No further details of the visit were given by William’s office, but he is likely to make the trip alone as his wife, “Kate” (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge), is due to give birth to the couple’s third child in April.
Sky News, on its website, reported the news under this headline: “Prince William to become first British Royal to visit Palestinian Territories.”Reuters contributed to this reported.