Prince William, first British royal to visit Israel and Palestine

By Middle East Affairs

Prince William is set to visit Israel and Palestine in the first official visit from the British royal family.

With Israel killing more than 120 Palestinians in recent weeks in Gaza, and the hotly disputed move to relocate the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the prince is not expected to discuss politics in his visit.

Director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) Chris Doyle spoke with Arab News and said that the four-day tour of the region is likely to focus on potential trade deals now that Britain is set to exit the E.U. He does not expect Prince William to engage in talks regarding the Middle East peace process.

He said, “There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.

Doyle also said that forming such close ties with Israel “risks normalizing the abusive regime under which Palestinians live” at the hands of Israeli occupation.

He also said, “Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza.”

The tour is set to begin in Jordan on Sunday, two days later Prince William is scheduled to arrive in Jerusalem where he is expected to visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims. On his agenda, a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also expected and afterward, Prince William will attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.

On the last day of his trip, the prince is set to meet young Arab and Jewish activists who champion for education and social programs. Prince William will also be entering Palestine to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and attend an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.

The prince is expected to deliver a speech in Jerusalem in a reception hosted by the American consul. His remarks will be highly restrained as royals are not allowed to make obviously political statements. Doyle speaking with Arab News said he is regretful of the protocol as Princess Diana, Prince William’s mother was a famous advocate for justice and the oppressed.

“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.

He also said, “Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”

The trip surprised many as Prince William’s father has a record of visiting countries known for being extremely sensitive politically. Doyle said that Prince William has a better chance than his father of relating with young Israeli in hi-tech fields than his father would have. His presence is also more likely to be better received among Palestinians than his father would have been.

“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.

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