Royal visit was a shrewd move

The moment finally arrived after decades of waiting, spurious snubs and the uncomfortable unanswered question of why the royal family has never visited Israel.

Prince William’s Middle East tour was a diplomatic triumph because his warmth, empathy and natural charm shone through.

He is not a politician so was not expected to engage in high politics or offer political solutions. Senior diplomats who designed his itinerary produced the perfect mix of charities, tech, statecraft and sport.

The decision to visit Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories was a shrewd solution from a British foreign policy establishment fixated with balance and even-handedness.

Visiting all three places allowed a joint celebration and sent two important messages; that this triangular relationship holds the key to a better future for Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians, and the UK is a steadfast ally offering aid, political and military support.

Many have asked why it took so long and why now. It is often said that a visit was vetoed until a comprehensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians could be agreed. Or that a visit to Israel would cause ruptures with Arab states so vital to trade and defence sales.

The truth is that the world has changed. Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE are edging closer to Israel in their drive for economic reform and their fight against Iran. For the UK, close ties to Israel are an asset in this sphere, not a problem.

Israel has also changed. Its booming economy, impressive innovation and world leading high-tech sector make it a vital partner for post-Brexit Britain.

Prince William wielded immense soft power this week to cement UK-Israel relations.

For Israel, this was a glorious blend of royal warrant and kosher stamp rolled into one –  an experience that will live on for many decades to come.

About the Author
James Sorene is CEO of the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre in London and an analyst of Middle East Issues. He appears regularly on UK TV and Radio and writes for numerous newspapers and websites. He was previously a UK Government civil servant, Head of Communications for Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg from 2011 to May 2015. From 1997 to 2000 he was Head of Public Affairs at the Israeli Embassy in London.
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