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Prince William to make first official Royal visit to Palestinian Territories

The Duke of Cambridge is to become the first member of the Royal Family to make an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, in his most diplomatically sensitive tour yet.

The Duke will travel to the region this summer for a deeply significant visit, ending what has been perceived by some as a 70-year snub of Israel.

Kensington Palace has announced that the Duke will undertake the visit to Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on the request of the Foreign Office.

It is the first time an official visit has been made to the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British Royal Family, with the Duke becoming the first senior Royal to visit Israel in the line of duty.

The tour, which the Duke will undertake without his wife and children, is the most politically sensitive task of his career by some measure, with recent trips to confined to uncontroversial expeditions to Canada, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Recent Royal visits, to Norway and Sweden, have steered clear of political controversy

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It comes he significantly steps up his duties to support the Queen, after giving up work as a search and rescue pilot to become a full-time Royal.

The trip has been in the pipeline for some time, with discussions over sending a member of the Royal Family to mark the centenary of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration eventually coming to nothing.

The decision to send the Duke, second-in-line to the throne, has been welcomed by senior figures in the region, with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, saying: “This is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and it will be greeted here with great affection.”

The visit will see the Duke meet with senior politicians, local charities and spend time “getting to  know the people of the region”, and is designed to “promote cultural and diplomatic ties”, a source said.

Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed news of the visit

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It is thought to be in part the result of the deepening economic and security ties between Israel and the UK, with a particular emphasis on trade.

The trip is also likely to prove a diplomatic minefield for the 35-year-old Duke, who is compelled to avoid making any politically controversial statements in public at all times.

Until recently, a trip to the region has been considered too problematic to risk, with fears over security and concerns that Israel would make political capital from the tacit seal of approval a visit from the Royal Family would bring.

“Until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Royal family can’t really go there,” a Whitehall source said in 2015.

Amnesty International has already called on the Duke to “visit some of the Palestinian communities affected by Israel’s 50 year occupation.”

Princess Alice, Prince Philip’s mother, is buried in Israel

British diplomats may also struggle to shield the Duke from very public Palestinian criticism over the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 British statement that helped paved the way for the creation of Israel.

James Sorene, the chief executive of Bicom, a think tank focusing on UK-Israeli relations, said the visit would be “a huge moment” for Britain’s Jewish community.

“This will absolutely be welcome and also seen as a case of better late than never,” he said. “There is 70 years of hurt about why there has never been a visit to Israel when there have been visits to lots of other countries with all sort of issues. But I think a sensitive, warm visit will wash most of that away”.  

More details about the trip will be released later this year.

Prince Philip plants a tree in memory of his mother Princess Alice of Greece on the Avenue of the Righteous Among Nations in Jerusalem

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AP

While there have been numerous high profile Royal tours to Jordan, including a state visit by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 1984, even private trips to Israel have been few and far between.

The Prince of Wales has been twice, to pay his respects at the funerals of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and former president Shimon Peres in 2016, while the Duke of Kent and Duke of Gloucester paid low-key visits in 1998 and 2007 respectively.

Both the Prince of Wales and Duke of Edinburgh have made private visits to the grave of Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Greece who is buried on the Mount of Olives.

A spokesman for the FCO said of the Duke’s tour: “We are absolutely delighted that this visit is taking place. We want to celebrate our contemporary relationships in trade, science, education and people to people links, as well as our relationships with the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities.”

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/03/01/prince-william-make-first-official-royal-visit-palestinian-territories/

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