(LONDON) — In a historic first, Kensington Palace announced Thursday that Prince William will go on a full-fledged official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories this summer. William will also travel to Jordan as part of the trip, the palace said. Members of the royal family have previously made officials visits to Jordan.
“The visit is at the request of her majesty’s government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities,” the statement said. “Further details will be announced in due course,” it added. Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, reacted immediately to the news.
“We welcome the announcement of Prince William’s visit to Israel. This is an historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be welcomed here with great affection. I have instructed the Foreign Ministry Director General to coordinate the preparations for the visit to ensure its success,” he said in a tweet. For William, the visit will be a more sensitive diplomatic one compared to his most recent trips which have included Canada, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
All foreign trip are taken at the direction of the foreign commonwealth office. The British government considers the Palestinian territories — including East Jerusalem — to be occupied by Israel. The royal family will not want to be perceived as taking sides on this hot button political issue. Israeli officials have been frustrated for decades that the royals have not made official visits to their country despite several unofficial and more private visits to Jerusalem and Israel.
In 2016, Prince Charles traveled to Jerusalem to attend the funeral of Israel President Shimon Peres, and returned again in 1995 to attend the funeral of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Prince Philip visited Jerusalem in 1994 for a private visit to his mother’s grave. Princess Alice of Battenberg is buried on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, which the British government considers occupied. Princess Alice opened up her Athens Palace to a Jewish family during World War II, and Israel gave her the title, “Righteous Among Nations,” which refers to those who sheltered Jews.
This will be the first official visit to the West Bank by a member of the royal family at the invitation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Philip Hall, the British Consul general in Jerusalem, said today he was “delighted that Prince William has accepted President Abbas’s invitation to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the summer.” “This will be a unique and special opportunity for His Royal Highness to meet Palestinian people and see the reality of life in the Holy Land,” Hall added. “I know he is looking forward to the visit enormously.”
Meanwhile, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, Allan Hogarth, released a statement Thursday encouraging Prince William to “visit some of the Palestinian communities affected by Israel’s 50-year occupation, including people in Hebron who’ve been torn from their families and livelihoods by the notorious Shuhada Street closure.” Hogarth added, “We’d hope Prince William could see the moral strength of this position and support our campaign.”