• Prince William charms tense Middle East on first-ever official visit by British royal to Israel

    By: USA Today

    Updated:

    Prince William arrived in Israel Monday on the second day of his five-day tour of the always-tense Middle East region, aiming to deploy his charm and diplomatic skills for this first-ever official visit by a British royal to the Jewish state.

    Kensington Palace posted a tweet showing the Duke of Cambridge, second in line to the throne, arriving in Tel Aviv, and noted the historic nature of his visit, a first not only for Israel but also for the Palestinian Territories.

    "Prince William arrives in Israel, on the first official visit by a senior member of the Royal Family," the tweet read.

    The prince, who is visiting the region to represent his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, and at the behest of the British Foreign Office, is to spend time in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and in Ramallah in the West Bank, which the Foreign Office refers to as the "Occupied Palestinian Territories."

    William is scheduled to meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

    Israelis, celebrating the 70th anniversary year of the nation's independence, had long pleaded for British governments to send a high-ranking royal to help bolster its standing in the world. Up until now, government ministers had declined because of political and diplomatic sensitivities.   

    The prince, 36, spent Sunday in Jordan, where he visited Jerash, the ancient Roman archaeological ruins where his wife, Duchess Kate of Cambridge, visited as a child when her family lived in the Hashemite kingdom in the 1980s. 

    The Jordanians placed an enlarged photo of Kate, with little sister Pippa and father Michael Middleton, on the spot where a picture was taken of the trio.

    In brilliant desert sunshine and dressed in a casual jacket, shirt, trousers and sunglasses, William re-created the photo by standing in the same spot where his wife stood as a child.

    Duchess Kate stayed home with the couple's three children, including baby Prince Louis, who was born in April (and is to be christened on July 9 at at the Chapel Royal in St. James’ Palace in London). 

    At a reception at the British ambassador to Jordan's residence in Amman, he told guests that Kate was disappointed she couldn't make the trip.

    "She loved it here, she really did. She is very upset that I am coming here without her," he said, according to British media. 

    Accompanied by Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein, 23, William also got to watch — on a giant TV in Beit Al Urdun Palace in Amman — a rerun of England's World Cup match against Panama, which the heir to the Jordanian throne (son of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania) had helpfully recorded earlier. 

    The Daily Mail reported that Will had jokingly warned photographers who accompanied him not to tell him the score or who had won the match. (It was England.)

     According to the Associated Press, William is set to tour Yad Vashem — Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust — on Tuesday. He is also expected to see Jerusalem's Old City from the Mount of Olives, before going to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene, where he will pay his respects at the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice. 

    William's father, Charles, the Prince of Wales, 69, and his grandfather, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, 97, both have made private visits to Israel over the years to attend funerals and to visit Princess Alice's tomb. (She was Prince Philip's mother, born a German princess and descended of Queen Victoria, who married Philip's father, Prince Andrew, of the exiled Greek royal family.)

    Prior to the trip, Kensington Palace officials briefing reporters said the prince considers it "a great privilege"  to carry out the first official royal tour of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and "to be able to help further strengthen the friendship between Jordan and the United Kingdom."

    Among other things, his schedule in the region is designed to allow him to meet young Jordanians, Israelis and Palestinians from his own generation.

    "His Royal Highness is looking forward to learning about their unique perspectives, but also their shared ambitions and hopes for the future," the palace said in a statement.

    While Prince William continued his good-will tour, President Donald Trump's son-in-law and Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, has spent a week in the region meeting with leaders of Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza and the administration’s proposals for a peace deal.

    Kushner said in an interview published Sunday in the Arabic language Al-Quds newspaper that the administration will soon present its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, with or without input from Abbas. Kushner appealed directly to Palestinians and criticized Abbas, who has shunned the Trump team over its alleged pro-Israel bias, particularly on the fate of contested Jerusalem.

     

      

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