In Depth

Why Prince William can’t avoid politics on Middle East tour

Duke of Cambridge due to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in biggest diplomatic test of his life

Prince William has begun a historic trip to the Middle East that will include the first ever official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories by a British royal.

The Duke of Cambridge is currently in Jordan but is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this week.

Kensington Palace has stressed that the trip is non-political, but the Prince’s schedule alone makes that prospect impossible.

“British royal visits usually try to stay above politics, but any foray into this region is inherently political,” says CNN.

The “most challenging diplomatic trip of his lifetime by some measure” will see Prince William  “walking the tightrope of Middle Eastern politics for five days as he attempts to avoid offending any interested party”, adds The Daily Telegraph.

Prince William is due to travel from Jordan to Israel tonight. Tomorrow he will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, in Jerusalem, and meet Netanyahu, who has faced international criticism for using live fire against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza and for his continued settlement expansion.

The visit by a member of the Royal Family has been seen by some commentators as giving legitimacy to Netanyahu’s government and to Israel as a UK ally.

In an effort to maintain balance, William will also meet Palestinian leaders in the West Bank. 

However, Israeli officials have been enraged by Kensington Palace’s statement about the Middle East tour, which describes Jerusalem’s Old City as located in occupied Palestinian territory.

Meanwhile, Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian diplomatic representative in London, has claimed the visit will be considered as an “act of indirect apology” for the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the British statement of support for a Jewish homeland.

British officials “swear blind” the timing of the trip has “nothing to do with this year’s 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation”, says the BBC.

However, nobody can quite explain why it had to be this year.

“For just under three decades, after World War One, Britain controlled present-day Jordan, Israel and the occupied territories; three decades that would see the Middle East reshaped by European design, compromise, and failure,” notes the broadcaster.

There has been no official royal visit since Palestine “slipped from the hands” of Britain in 1948, the BBC adds.

“It is into this cauldron that Prince William will enter,” says CNN, “and a lifetime of royal training will be put to the test.”

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