Israeli minister furious with British royal statement on ‘occupied’ Jerusalem
LONDON - The status of Jerusalem in the British royal itinerary for Prince William’s upcoming visit has angered an Israeli cabinet member.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin wrote on Facebook that a “distortion” cannot “change reality.”
The prince is to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next week. His schedule lists Jerusalem as part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move rejected by the international community.
Israel views the territory, home to key holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, as an inseparable part of its capital.
Palestinians claim it as the capital of a future state. The city’s fate is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict.
Prince William will become the first British royal to pay an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories, 70 years after British forces withdrew from the Holy Land leaving behind the divisions that remain to this day.
Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, 36, and second-in-line to the throne, will travel without his wife Kate or their three children for the three-day visit. He will stay in Jerusalem at the King David hotel, once the headquarters of British authorities, where Jewish militants killed more than 90 people in a bombing in 1946.
Britain captured Palestine from the crumbling Ottoman Empire during World War One in 1917, and later governed it under an international mandate.
Prince William’s visit coincides with the 70th anniversary both of Britain’s exit and of Israel’s independence, which Palestinians mourn as their dispossession.
Until now it had been British policy not to make an official royal trip until the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is resolved.
His tour comes at a time of diplomatic upheaval in the region, after US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the US Embassy there.
The prince’s communications secretary, Jason Knauf, said the visit would be non-political, allowing “a spotlight to be brought to bear on the people of the region: their cultures, their young people, their aspirations, and their experiences”.
Prince William will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He will also visit religious sites, Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust dead, and the tomb of his great-grandmother Princess Alice, who hid a Jewish family in her residence in Greece during World War II and is buried in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Other members of the royal family have made unofficial visits. Prince Charles, William’s father, attended the funerals of Israeli statesmen Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. In 1994 Prince Philip, William’s grandfather, attended a ceremony at Yad Vashem honouring his mother, Princess Alice.
(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)