Israel was established 70 years ago. But June 25 will be the first time the Jewish state has ever been the destination for a British royal visit.
For 70 years, the British Royal family has boycotted Israel and so refused to officially come to terms with its very existence.
It isn’t that Israel has been completely overlooked. While Queen Elizabeth II, who has clocked more travel hours than any other British sovereign, has made a point never to step foot in Israel, her husband Prince Philip and her son Charles, the Prince of Wales, have come to Israel on private visits. Prince Charles attended the funerals of the late Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres on such “private” trips.
Now, on June 25, The Duke of Cambridge, Prince William is set to “make history” by becoming the first British royal family member to come to Israel on an official visit. That is, 70 years after Israel’s founding, the British royal family has finally decided to make its peace with the fact of Israel’s existence.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the visit when it was first announced in March. He called it “A historic visit.”
“He [William] will be received here with great enthusiasm,” Netanyahu promised.
Netanyahu should have curbed his enthusiasm.
According to a report of William’s planned itinerary in the Yediot Ahronot Hebrew daily newspaper Tuesday, Kensington Palace is going to great lengths to snub Israel and insult the Netanyahu government during his trip.
On June 28, the last day of his visit, William will travel to the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.
Jordan illegally occupied and annexed Jerusalem’s Old City, along with the rest of eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, during the pan-Arab invasion of Israel at its birth on May 15, 1948. Israel liberated the areas during the 1967 Six Day War and quickly incorporated them into Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries.
Prince William’s father and grandfather both paid private visits to the area. Prince Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is buried at the Church of Mary Magdalene, adjacent to the Mount of Olives. Both royals visited her grave.
William is also scheduled to visit his great-grandmother’s grave during his trip. And that is where the trouble starts.
The Duke of Cambridge could have referred to his visit to Jerusalem’s Old City as a private visit, as his father and grandfather did before him. Both President Donald Trump and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz referred to their visits to the Western Wall and other religious sites in Jerusalem’s Old City as private visits.
Instead, Yediot reported, Kensington Palace has insisted that William’s visit to Jerusalem is part of his official visit to the Palestinian Authority (and what it calls the “Occupied Palestinian Territories”). That is, rather than finesse Britain’s position on the most explosive issue in the Arab conflict with Israel, Britain decided to use Prince William’s visit to do what no government, other than Pakistan, ever did: claim, in an official act, that these sections of Jerusalem belong to the Arabs, not the Jews.
Kensington Palace is presenting William’s visit as nonpolitical. But the opposite is the case. According to the itinerary published in Yediot, almost every aspect of William’s visit, except for his meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, and Israel’s Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem are political.
William will be meeting with underprivileged children in the predominantly Arab city of Jaffa, Tel Aviv’s sister city, in an event organized by a UK-funded Israeli NGO called the Equalizer. He will also be visiting the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. Both of these visits will communicate the message that the Israeli government doesn’t care enough about peace and coexistence between Arabs and Jews.
Neither the Peres Center nor Equalizer are radical groups. But by visiting them, William will be indirectly, yet powerfully, endorsing Britain’s highly political, hostile policy of massively financing the operations of anti-Israel Israeli registered NGOs.
Every year, the British government spends millions of pounds funding radical, political NGOs that advance the international boycott of Israel, reject Israel’s right to exist, use the Israeli court system to stymie government operations, demonize the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), and incite Arab Israelis to reject their Israeli identity.
After his visit to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, William will spend a day in the Palestinian Authority-run areas, celebrating Palestinian culture. He will visit Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who recently said that Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves by serving as money lenders.
On Sunday, hundreds of Hezbollah supporters marched through London for the annual “Quds Day” march, founded by the Iranian regime in 1979. Iran’s role in organizing the event was exposed by the fact that it began outside the Saudi embassy in London. Tehran, a bitter foe of Saudi Arabia, used the occasion to chastise the Saudi government for its operational ties with Israel.
The event featured an address by disgraced Anglican priest Stephen Sizer. In 2015, Sizer accused Israel of responsibility for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.
The British government, like the rest of the European Union, permits Hezbollah to operate openly. It makes an artificial distinction between Hezbollah’s “political” wing, which is legal, and its so-called “military” wing, which is labelled a terror group. British Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has referred to Hezbollah terrorists as “my friends.”
As Netanyahu’s enthusiastic response to the initial news that Prince William would be breaking the royal family’s 70 year boycott of Israel indicated, Israel is always happy to strengthen its ties to Britain.
Unfortunately, Prince William’s deeply political and hostile “historic” visit indicates that ending the royal boycott is not a sign that Britain has turned over a new leaf in its hostile and contemptuous — treatment of the Jewish state.