Britain scraps plans for Prince Charles visit to Israel

First official state visit to Israel by member of Royal Family cancelled, reportedly to avoid upsetting Arab world.

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Prince Charles in Israel for Shimon Peres's funeral
Prince Charles in Israel for Shimon Peres's funeral
Reuters

JTA - Plans for Britain’s Prince Charles to visit Israel have been scrapped by the Foreign Office, a London newspaper is reporting.

Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, would have been the first member of the Royal Family to make an official state visit to Israel since its founding. Though the visit was not officially announced, senior officials had been cited in British and Israeli media in recent weeks saying that Prince Charles or another member of the Royal Family would travel to Israel to mark the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.

Signed on Nov. 2, 1917, by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, the declaration stated the British government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The British tabloid The Sun reported on Sunday that the decision to cancel, made by the Foreign Office, may have been taken to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region, some of whom demanded that the UK apologize for the Balfour Declaration, a request summarily denied by current PM Teresa May.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin extended an invitation for a Royal state visit to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this year. The Sun reported that the invitation never officially reached the Royal Family.

Prince Charles made a private trip to Israel in October to attend the funeral of former Israeli president Shimon Peres. While he was in Israel he also visited in secret the grave of his grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who is buried in the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. She died in 1969 in London and was transferred to a crypt in the church in 1988 in accordance with her wishes.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said in a statement: “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.

In general, the British royal family refrains from official visits to Israel except for state funerals, despite the fact that thousands of British servicemen who fell in WWI are buried in the Jerusalem British Cemetery and the Ramleh British Cemetery; it does not recognize eastern Jerusalem as part of Israel. The few royal visits to Israel have been defined as private. Prince Philip visited Israel in 1994 for a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial to honor his mother. Prior to the ceremony, Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, visited their mother’s burial site.