Following Prince Charles’ two non-diplomatic visits to Israel, there were high hopes that relations between the monarchy of Great Britain and Israel could be warming up, even possibly leading to a return visit by Prince Charles – potentially the first historic diplomatic visit to Israel by a senior member of the royal family.
This week, the Sun tabloid quashed the hopes and silenced the rumors when they reported that the first in line to the British throne will not be visiting Israel as the British Foreign Office has curtailed his trip.
Prince Charles’s attended the late President Shimon Peres’ funeral last year as well as the funeral of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. His father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, made a brief visit to attend a ceremony in tribute to his late mother, Alice of Battenberg, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. None of these visits were recognized as official.
Despite the amicable relationship between Israel and the current and previous prime ministers of Great Britain, no U.K. government has approved any of the numerous, official invitations extended to the royal house over the years. This means that since the end of the British Mandate and the establishment of the state in 1948, no member of the monarchy has visited Israel in any official capacity.
In March, in a meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson; Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin publicly extended an invitation to Prince Charles to visit Israel during the centennial year of the 1917 signing of the Balfour Declaration. Neither London nor Jerusalem, confirmed any visit but in November, a senior British Jewish community leader let it slip that plans were underway for a member of the royal family to visit Israel in a first-ever official visit.
The British tabloid reported that the Royal Visits Committee, the branch of the Foreign Office that coordinates trips on behalf of the royal family, refused to endorse the attendance because they wanted “to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.” The tabloid quoted a spokesman: “Her Majesty’s Government makes decisions on Royal Visits based on recommendations from the Royal Visits Committee, taking into account advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The Committee never proposed a royal visit to Israel for 2017. Plans for 2018 will be announced in due course.”
Israeli officials feel that the royals’ unwillingness to come to the Jewish state is an affront as the British monarchy readily and often visit authoritarian Arab states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
President Reuven Rivlin has since reissued an invitation for a representative of the British monarchy to attend the centennial commemoration of the signing of the Balfour Declaration and the ANZAC centenary celebrations.