By Middle East Affairs
In a historic move, Prince William of Britain has announced he will be the first of the royal family to make an official visit to Israel, as well as Palestine and Jordan.
But as Israel nears its 70th anniversary of independence, why did it take so long?
For many years the Israeli prime ministers have reached out to the United Kingdom and invited the royal family for a visit, but the family has repeatedly turned them down.
According to columnist Anshel Pfeffer at Haaretz, it’s because the kingdom is losing its power.
In the past the family wanted to main a very neutral, diplomatic reputation throughout the world. As Israel and Palestine continue to dispute over shared territory and the international community watches over, the Brits didn’t want to get their hands dirty.
Even when former prime minister Ehud Olmert was negotiating peace with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007, the U.K. still declined the invitation.
Pfeffer says that’s because the royal family wouldn’t risk a visit until an agreement was officially reached.
However, even though Palestine and Israel are nowhere near peace talks right now, the Kensington Palace announced Thursday that Prince William would make his rounds this summer.
Pfeffer claims that’s because the United Kingdom’s power is on the downfall, especially because of its Brexit vote to leave the European Union. Now, he says, the U.K. needs to “carve out a new niche for itself in international diplomacy.”
At the moment, he says, Israel benefits Britain because it provides intelligence on terror threats and sells the kingdom “high-tech and advanced weapons.” Also, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a stronger relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which could help Britain’s politics.
Britain, on the other hand, doesn’t offer as much to Israel.
In a competing opinion from Times of Israel, Michael Dickson, executive director of Stand With Us Israel, wrote an open letter to Prince William.
In the letter he touted Israel’s history as the land of the Jews, as well as its modernity and openness to minorities and other religions.
Dickson said this visit will be important to British Jews as well, who have “played a growing and central role in British life since arriving in England during the reign of William the Conqueror.”
“This visit,” he continued “has the potential to take the relationship between the UK Jews and the royal family to a whole new level. Jews are loyal subjects and adore being British, and they also love Israel.”
Dickson said every Sabbath the Jews says a public prayer for the Royal Family.
Finally, he mentioned that Prince William will visit Palestine and asked Prince William to urge the Palestinians into peace talks with Israel.