Prince William in Israel as part of historic regional tour

2018-06-26 07:08

Britain's Prince William arrived in Israel on Monday, the first member of the royal family to make an official visit to the Jewish state and the Palestinian territories.

Prince William's plane from Jordan landed at Ben Gurion Airport between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem around 18:00 (15:00 GMT), with the royal descending on to the tarmac in a dark suit.

Officials stressed the visit of the future king was non-political and focused on building relations with young people.

Yet he is likely to rub up against the complicated realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly when he visits the disputed holy city of Jerusalem.

William, second in line to the British throne, arrived without his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who gave birth to their third child two months ago.

He will stay in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel, former headquarters of the British administration during the mandate in Palestine before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

On Tuesday, he is to lay a wreath at the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, before meeting separately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

The following day he is scheduled to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, before meeting Palestinian refugees and young people.

On Thursday, he is to complete his stay by visiting historical and religious sites in Jerusalem.

"We know this is not a time when we can celebrate progress in the Middle East peace progress, but we believe that engagement is just as important in challenging times as it is in good times," Philip Hall, Britain's consul general in Jerusalem, told journalists on Monday.

"We know some of the politics are difficult, but this is not a political visit."

While in Jerusalem, William will also visit the grave of his great grandmother Princess Alice, who is buried in Jerusalem. She was honoured by Israel for sheltering Jews during World War II.

Israel defines Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

US President Donald Trump's December decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital angered Palestinians, and the May inauguration of the US embassy in the city coincided with bloody border protests in the Gaza Strip.

Some right-wing Israeli politicians have criticised the fact William's visit to east Jerusalem is being organised by the British consulate, which deals with the Palestinians.

Hall said they were following "decades" of rulings in the United Nations that declare east Jerusalem, including the Old City, part of the occupied Palestinian territories.

"There is no change in the position."

Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Official visits by British royals are organised at the request of the UK government.

Other members of William's family - including his father Prince Charles - have made unofficial visits to Israel and east Jerusalem in the past.

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