Prince William has embarked on the first ever official royal visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, where he will meet leaders on both sides of the conflict in what Kensington Palace has stressed is a “non political” trip.
The second in line to the throne arrived in Tel Aviv from Jordan, visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem before meeting president Reuven Rivlin and visiting prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, at their official residence.
In front of reporters, Mr Rivlin asked the prince to deliver a “message of peace” to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, whom he will meet later this week.
“I, like you, am hoping that peace in the area can be achieved,” the Duke of Cambridge replied, adding: “I’m very much looking forward to really absorbing and understanding the different issues.”
The prince then travelled on to Jaffa, where he played football with Jewish and Arab Israeli children brought together by two charities promoting coexistence, before heading to a reception in his honour at the British embassy in Tel Aviv.
He will then travel for meetings with Palestinian officials in the West Bank before visiting his great-grandmother’s grave on the Mount of Olives in occupied East Jerusalem.
The five-day trip – the 36-year-old’s most high profile to date – concludes on Friday.
Representatives from both sides of the intractable conflict are eager to welcome the British royal at a time when the Palestinians have written off US president Donald Trump’s administration as incapable of being an “honest broker” in the stalled peace process.
Mr Trump’s decision last year to recognise the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital sparked protests across the Muslim world.
The official embassy move from Tel Aviv in May was met with huge demonstrations on the Gaza border, where Israel Defence Forces snipers shot and killed at least 120 people during weekly Friday protests.
Israel and the Palestinian territories have long been unofficially viewed as a diplomatic minefield for royal state visits, which are made at the request of the British government.
It was the UK’s withdrawal from British-mandated Palestine in 1948 which eventually led to the creation of Israel and Jordan.
Both Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas greeted the prince’s trip as “historic” when it was announced earlier this year.
Alistair Burt, the British minister of state for the Middle East, said at the time that William’s visit is an “important and unique opportunity to promote diplomatic and cultural ties in the region”.
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