In a royal first, Prince William visiting Israel and 'occupied Palestinian territories'

In a diplomatically sensitive trip, Prince William will travel to the Holy Land.

June 25, 2018, 7:32 AM

LONDON -- The Duke of Cambridge will land in Israel Monday evening for the first official visit to the Holy Land by a member of the British royal family.

During his three-day trip, Prince William will visit Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Jerusalem and Ramallah, also marking the first visit to the West Bank, which is occupied by Israel, by a member of the royal family at the invitation of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli officials have long expressed frustration with the British royals for not making official visits to the country despite several unofficial and more private visits.

But now that the visit is finally happening, Israeli officials are concerned about the palace's language, especially after U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The prince's official itinerary lists Jerusalem as part of the "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

Zeev Elkin, an Israeli Cabinet member and Jerusalem affairs minister, complained on Facebook that a "distortion" cannot "change reality."

“It’s regrettable that Britain chose to politicize the Royal visit,” Elkin also said, according to the Israeli publication, Ynet.

British royals specifically avoid politics, though the visit is certainly a more sensitive diplomatic one compared to Prince William's most recent trips to Canada, Germany, Poland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. All royal foreign trips are taken at the direction of the foreign commonwealth office and the British government considers the Palestinian territories -- including East Jerusalem -- to be occupied by Israel.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war from Jordan and annexed it in a move not internationally recognized.

"The historic nature of this tour is, of course, important and The Duke considers it a great privilege to be undertaking the first ever official Royal tour of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories," said Kensington Palace in a statement.

"More importantly, however, The Duke is looking forward to building a real and enduring relationship with the people of the region."

Prince William arrived in Jordan Sunday for the first leg of his trip, hosted by Crown Prince Al-Hussein bin Abdullah II.

"The ties between our royal families stretch back over generations," the duke said in a speech last night. "My grandmother, the queen, and His Late Majesty King Hussein ascended to the throne exactly one month apart in 1952. The queen to this day talks fondly of the special bond of friendship that existed between them. Your Royal Highnesses, I look forward to continuing to strengthen this bond between our Families in the years to come."

Monday morning, Prince William visited a new military base Monday morning.

And he met a group of Syrian refugee children with UNICEF's Makani program, which offers psychological support for parents and children.

In the first century Roman city of Jerash, the Duke of Cambridge and Jordan's Crown Prince visited another group of Syrian refugee children in a photography program.

Also in Jerash, he snapped a photo in the same spot where his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, visited at age 4. Describing the visit to Jerash, Kensington Palace said, "It is, by the way, the site where the young Catherine Middleton is pictured standing on a pile of stones with her father and young sister when the Middleton family lived in Jordan."

In the same speech Sunday night, the prince said: "My wife Catherine is very sorry she cannot be here with me so soon after the birth of our son Louis, but her family remembers very fondly the almost three years she spent here as a child when her father worked for British Airways in Amman."

The Duke of Cambridge traveled with the Crown Prince, telling him: “The way in which you opened your doors to hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, not to mention your longstanding commitments to Palestinian refugees, is remarkable," according to Kensington Palace's twitter account.

And amid official engagements, the two also watched a rerun of England's world cup win Sunday night.

On Tuesday in Jerusalem, Prince William will visit the Yad Vashem, Jerusalem's Holocaust museum and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, as well as Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

He will then attend a soccer game sponsored by a nongovernment organization, including both Israeli and Palestinian children playing in Jaffa, the ancient Arab port city just south of Tel Aviv.

The duke will start the day in Tel Aviv Wednesday morning, "with a visit that we are really looking forward to, but will not be announcing in advance," Kensington Palace said.

He will then visit Ramallah in the West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and attend events "that focus on the issues facing refugee communities" and seek "opportunities to celebrate Palestinian culture, music and food." He'll also have the chance to meet a number of young Palestinians.

On his last day, Prince William will visit Jerusalem's Old City and the grave of Princess Alice of Greece, his great-grandmother and the Duke of Edinburgh's mother, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

Princess Alice of Battenberg, who was married to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, is buried on the Mount of Olives because she opened up her Athens palace to a Jewish family during World War II. Israel later gave her the title "Righteous Among Nations," which refers to those who sheltered Jews. Prince Philip, her son and William’s grandfather, visited his mother's grave in 1994.

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