Britain’s Prince William heads for historic Middle East tour
Prince William flies to Jordan Sunday on a trip that will see him become the first member of Britain’s royal family to pay an official visit to both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
The 36-year-old Duke of Cambridge touches down in Amman for a first leg billed as a chance to bond with Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah, 23, a fellow graduate of Britain’s Royal Sandhurst Military Academy.
The second in line to the British throne will then head to Israel Monday evening to begin his history-making visit to the Jewish state and occupied West Bank.
He will hold talks with both Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
Kensington Palace has underlined the “non-political nature of His Royal Highness’s role — in common with all royal visits overseas”.
But the region is a minefield of sensitivities.
The visit comes at a particularly volatile time after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moved Washington’s embassy there, sparking Arab outrage and deadly clashes.
Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel’s independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of a conflict that continues to wrack the region.
Ahead of William’s arrival, the official schedule’s reference to east Jerusalem as “in the Occupied Palestinian Territories” sparked particular anger among some right-wing Israeli politicians.
Official visits by British royals take place at the request of the UK government, but statements from the prince’s household have given little explanation for the timing of this trip.
Israel has long pushed for an official visit by a member of the British monarchy.
Other members of William’s family — including his father Prince Charles — have made unofficial visits to Israel and east Jerusalem in the past.
During the trip, William will have plenty of reminders of the British role in the region.
In Jerusalem he will stay at the King David hotel, which was Britain’s administrative headquarters during its rule of Palestine prior to Israeli statehood in 1948.
In 1946 militant Jews waging violent resistance against British rule bombed the building, killing and wounding scores of people, many of them British civil servants or military personnel.
A packed schedule will also see William meet with young people, British servicemen and Syrian refugees while in Jordan.
In Israel he will lay a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
He will visit the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem and pay tribute at the tomb of his great-grandmother Princess Alice of Greece, who was honoured by Israel for sheltering Jews during World War II.
In the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah he is also down to meet Palestinian refugees and youths.