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Senior member of the British Royal Family ‘planning’ historic first visit to Israel

A senior member of the British Royal Family is said to be planning a visit to Israel in 2017, to coincide with the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, The Times of Isreal reports.

According to the Israeli newspaper, “The details of the visit are not yet finalised but that the trip will be led by a senior member of the royal family.” The President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush, confirmed that the Board “has been making discreet but firm representations for some time, and it seems they have borne fruit”.

If the proposed official tour goes ahead, it will be a historic first visit by a member of the British Royal Family to the country. The British Government position on the matter of an official visit to the Jewish State by a member of the Royal Family as always been that “In Israel, so much politics is caught up in the land itself that it’s best to avoid those complications altogether by not going there.”

The visit would coincide with two significant anniversaries: the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, issued by foreign secretary Lord Arthur Balfour in 1917 to confirm the support of the British Government for the establishment in Palestine of a “national home” for the Jewish people, and the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jerusalem in which General Allenby lead the British Army to a victory over the Ottoman Empire, a pivotal moment in the Sinai and Palestine campaign of World War I.

The Prince of Wales most recently travelled to Jerusalem in September this year, to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres. He had previously been to the country in similar circumstances, to attend the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. The same year, the Duke of Edinburgh also travelled to Jerusalem, to attend a ceremony during which his mother was honoured as Righteous Among the Nations. These visits are not considered official royal visits and did not include diplomatic meetings.

The British Embassy in Israel could neither confirm or deny that a trip was being considered, stating simply that “any planned tours will be announced in due course in the usual way.” A spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry said that 2017 trips have not yet been finalised, and it is possible that a visit is being planned.

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