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Prince William is the first British royal to visit Israel, during a trip that will also take him to Palestinian territories

Prince William is the first British royal to visit Israel, during a trip that will also take him to Palestinian territories

JERUSALEM – Prince William touched down in Israel Monday, part of a five-day highly-touted visit by the British royal, the second in line to the throne, to a region that was once under British rule.

It is the first visit by a member of the royal family to Israel and the Palestinian territories since the British Mandate ended in 1948, and although it is being billed as only ceremonial, as with most things related to the holy land and to the British royal family, the politics of the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict are difficult to avoid. 

The prince, who arrived in Israel following a two-day stay in Jordan, will meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders and see some of the controversial holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City. He will also visit the grave of his great-grandmother Princess Alice, his grandfather’s mother, who is buried in Jerusalem and who helped save a Jewish family during the Holocaust.

Even before his arrival, Israeli politicians expressed frustration that the royal itinerary listed the holy sites in Jerusalem’s Old City as being located in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

“United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, and no distortion in the tour itinerary can change that reality,” said Israel’s minister of Jerusalem affairs, Zeev Elkin, according to local media.

Elkin, who recently announced he was running for Jerusalem mayor in October elections, said it was “regrettable” that Britain had “chosen to politicize the royal visit.”

Britain’s Prince William arrives at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

In a briefing with journalists on Monday, Britain’s Consul General in East Jerusalem, Philip Hall, said such terminology had been used for decades, in keeping with United Nation’s resolutions. 

Israel declared sovereignty over Jerusalem in the 1980s, after capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Although most of the world has resisted recognizing Israel’s annexation of the city, which Palestinians also hope to use as the capital for a future national state, President Trump recognized it as Israel’s capital last December.

In a highly controversial move, the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem last month, alienating the Palestinian leadership, who say they no longer view the United States as a viable broker in any future peace process. Last week, when Trump’s son-in-law and special Middle East Envoy, Jared Kushner, visited the region, he did not meet with Palestinian officials.

“We know the prince is not coming to celebrate a peace process and the politics here are difficult, but this is not a political visit and it will focus on other aspects of life,” said consul general Hall. Included in his packed schedule, in between the more high-profile meetings with political leaders, are events featuring Israeli and Palestinian youth in Tel Aviv and Ramallah. 

Prince William, who is also known as the Duke of Cambridge, will also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center. There, he will meet with Holocaust survivors who escaped Nazi Germany, arriving to safety in the Britain on the Kindertransport.

Other details of the prince’s visit in Jerusalem have been withheld for security reasons, but he is expected to visit the city’s holy sites during his stay.

Asked why the royal family decided it was time to visit this region now, Hall said that all three governments had “been happy to issue an invitation, and the Duke, at this stage of his career, was ready and able to engage in such a high profile trip.”

When he was in Jordan, Prince William met with local students, as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugees.

On Sunday evening, Kensington Palace tweeted photos of Prince William watching England’s World Cup soccer match against Panama with Jordan’s heir to the throne, Crown Prince Hussein, son of King Abdullah II. 

Apsny News English


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