Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin criticized Britain’s Prince William for listing his upcoming tour of the Old City of Jerusalem as part of his trip to the Palestinian territories, rather than to Israel.
The royal itinerary, published last week by Kensington Palace, had raised some eyebrows in Israel, as it implies that the palace considers the Old City to be located in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
“It is regrettable that in Britain they chose to politicize the royal visit,” Elkin said, according to the Ynet news site. “United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and no distortion in the tour itinerary can change that reality.”
Elkin, who recently announced that he will campaign to become mayor of Jerusalem in upcoming October elections, added, “I expect the prince’s people to correct the distortion.”
Much of the international community does not recognize Israel’s 1980 annexation of East Jerusalem, where the Old City is located.
According to the itinerary for the June 24-28 regional visit, William — also known as the Duke of Cambridge — will travel first to Jordan, followed by Israel on June 25-27.
On June 27, “the program will shift to its next leg – the Occupied Palestinian Territories” and on June 28 Prince William — the second-in-line to the throne — will receive a “short briefing on the history and geography of Jerusalem’s Old City from a viewing point at the Mount of Olives,” Kensington Palace said.
William is expected to visit the Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Church of John the Baptist, as well as the Western Wall, all of which are located within the Old City, according to unconfirmed reports. None of those sites were specifically listed in the royal itinerary.
Sources in Jerusalem explained that the locations have not been publicly announced so far due to their political sensitivity, with one source telling Ynet that the Western Wall visit was being kept quiet to avoid identifying it as part of the tour of the Palestinian territories.
If William does visit the Western Wall, it would likely be advertised as a “private visit,” as has been the case when other dignitaries have visited there recently. A private visit would not necessitate that William be accompanied by an official representative from the host country, thus allowing him to avoid the prickly issue of recognizing a sovereign body at the site. US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre last year was officially listed as private, as was a visit to the Western Wall by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz last week.
During his time in Israel, William will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in the capital, and also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
While in Ramallah in the West Bank he will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel captured the Old City and East Jerusalem from its Jordanian occupiers during the the 1967 Six Day War and subsequently annexed the territory. While Israel sees the city as its united capital, Palestinians want the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.