Jerusalem : Prince William will next week become the first member of Britain’s royal family ever to pay an official visit to both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel’s independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of a conflict that continues to wrack the region.
Second in line to the British throne, the 36-year-old will arrive Monday without his wife Kate, who in April gave birth to their third child, Prince Louis.
William’s visit comes at a particularly sensitive time after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moved Washington’s embassy there, sparking Arab outrage and deadly clashes on Israel’s border with Gaza.
Dror Zeigerman, a former Israeli ambassador to London, said the Jewish state has long sought a royal visit. “We asked many times for a visit of Prince Charles or the Queen and we were refused,” he told AFP. “I assume that it’s not the queen or the prince, it’s the Foreign Office… I don’t know why they changed their mind, maybe it’s time.”
Official visits by British royals take place at the request of the government, but statements from the prince’s household have given little explanation for the timing of next week’s trip. Kensington Palace has underlined the “non-political nature of His Royal Highness’s role — in common with all royal visits overseas”.