They say everything is bigger in America. Having attended AIPAC’s annual political convention in the US capitol last week, nothing had prepared me for this “super sized” get together. It was good to meet old friends and to make new ones
As a first-time visitor it is hard not to be impressed by such an extraordinary show of pro-Israel support and the strength of feeling towards the US-Israel relationship. 18,000 people squeezed into a hall and repeatedly rising to their feet to roar approval to the myriad speakers makes for quite the sight and sound.
For all the hype around conference appearances by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice President Mike Pence and the admittedly impressive Ambassador Nikki Haley, there was another hot topic of discussion not far from the lips of delegates – the upcoming visit to Israel by His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge.
I lost count of the number of people that wanted to discuss this historic visit. And that is exactly what this visit is – historic. For Prince William is set to become the first member of our Royal Family to visit Israel in an official capacity. It is a landmark moment.
While many in the pro-Israel and Jewish communities in the U.K. have for years questioned the lack of a Royal visit to the Jewish State, it turns out this feeling was felt just as strongly across the pond.
Prince William sets the pace for the new generation of royals: relaxed, informed and keen to understand how people live.
With him will come a press corps who are not Middle East specialist. He, and they, will be Britain’s window into the world of modern Israel in it’s 70th year.
So no stuffy meetings: let him see the real Israel with all it’s vibrance, innovation and compassion.
The second in line to the throne will be given the warmest of welcomes in Israel and I’ve no doubt that he will discover a thriving democracy which celebrates and cherishes the same values that we proudly do in the U.K. He’ll experience a country steeped in history yet confidently striding towards the future with its exciting start-up scene. He’ll see that Israel is a major friend and ally of the U.K. – with record £6.9 billion bilateral trade and close cooperation between our scientists in groundbreaking medical research. He’ll be taken by Israel’s humanitarian heart with its many peaceful coexistence initiatives and life-changing international development programmes. He’ll discover that Israel manages all of this (and so much more) in a country the size of the Principality of Wales and despite its many security challenges.
Prince William’s family has close personal connection to Israel and the Jewish people since his great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenburg, who is buried in Jerusalem, is recognised as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem after risking her life to save Jewish refugees in Athens during the Second World War.
International Trade Minister Graham Stuart last month described Britain’s relationship with Israel as “stronger than ever”. It certainly is.