The list of who’s who attending the funeral of former President Shimon Peres is missing one significant head of state in the Western world. That is HRH Queen Elizabeth II. A deep source of frustration for Israel has been the lack of any official visit by members of the British royal family despite numerous invitations. This is notwithstanding the fact that they frequently visit authoritarian Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Brunei, Jordan, Egypt and Qatar, countries marred by human-rights abuses and corrupt justice systems. Yet the Royals have consistently avoided the one true democracy in the Middle East, which, despite issues it is grappling and wrestling with, is a beacon of tolerance in the murky morass of the Middle East. The Queen has visited over 130 countries during her long reign leading journalist David Landau to ask:
Is there another member state of the United Nations that the British Royals have so consistently and assiduously snubbed in this way?”
Whilst both Prince Charles and his father the Duke of Edinburgh have visited Israel, the British Government has been at pains to stress they were personal visits and not taken in any official capacity. What could the possible reasons be for this unswerving rejection?
Perhaps that is that either they, or the Arabist dominated Foreign Office, harbour deep and undying enmity toward the Jewish state? The late Hebrew University expert on anti-Semitism, Professor Robert Wistrich, disagreed. He posited that the failure of the UK government to approve of such a visit was an unwarranted fear that a visit by the Queen in Israel would hurt British business interests in Arab countries. Britain has a multi-million pound arms trade with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. However, Wistrich stated, that in his opinion, the Queen’s refusal to visit Israel definitely contained an element of de-legitimisation and there is no doubt that if she would choose to visit Israel, it would be seen as a clearly symbolic act. Despite the fact that she has visited some of the world’s most controversial countries including China, Russia, Brunei, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. So, the questions still stands, why has Her Majesty, or a member of her family, still not been asked to strengthen diplomatic ties between the UK and Israel?