The Late Queen Elizabeth II visited over 130 countries during her long reign but notably not Israel. As Carolyne Davis noted:
The Queen was a deeply religious person who was guided by her Christian faith, so it was sad that she was never allowed to visit Israel, as I am sure she would have loved to walk around the Old City and to see the holy sites of the monotheistic religions.
A deep source of frustration for Israel was the lack of any official dedicated state visit by the late Queen, or indeed any members of the British Royal Family, despite numerous invitations. Journalist David Landau asked:
“Is there another member state of the United Nations that the British Royals have so consistently and assiduously snubbed in this way?”
This all changed on June 25, 2018. Prince William, the late Queen’s grandson, and now heir to the throne, arrived in Israel for the first-ever official visit of a member of the British royal family.
The late Queen frequently visited authoritarian Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Brunei, Jordan, Egypt and Qatar, countries marred by human-rights abuses and corrupt justice systems. Yet, until Prince William’s visit, the Royals 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.
Whilst King Charles III and his late father, the Duke of Edinburgh, have both visited Israel, the British Government has been at pains to stress they were personal visits and not taken in any official capacity. What, until Prince William’s visit, could have been the possible reasons for this unswerving rejection?
Hebrew University expert on antisemitism Professor Robert Wistrich posited that the failure of the UK government to approve of such a visit in the past was an unwarranted fear that a visit by a member of the Royal Family to 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 refusal to visit Israel, until Prince William came, definitely contained an element of de-legitimization and there is no doubt that until then, it would be seen as a clearly symbolic act. Despite the fact that the Royals have visited some of the world’s most controversial countries including China, Russia, Brunei, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.
The question is why did Prince William visit four years ago? Why did HM Government decide to strengthen diplomatic ties between the UK and Israel at that time? It is important to note that it was not a dedicated State visit rather it also included visits to Jordan and, in the language of the official communiqué, “Occupied Palestinian Territories.” In other words, the Foreign Office needed to “show balance.”
Maybe, as crazy as it sounds, finally the UK government woke up and saw all the good Israel does for the world and was showing support and interest. Whatever the reason, we hope that King Charles III will visit in an official capacity on a dedicated state visit to our country. During his visit he will be able to visit the grave of his Grandmother Princess Alice. She is buried in The Church of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem. She stayed in Athens during WWII sheltering Jewish refugees, for which she is recognized as a,”Righteous Among the Nations,” by Yad Vashem. She is the only member of the British Royal family to receive this honor. The best education for The King regarding the “true Israel” is to experience it himself.