In first official visit, Prince Charles due in Jerusalem for Auschwitz memorial

In first official visit, Prince Charles due in Jerusalem for Auschwitz memorial

Future king’s trip next month will be only the second time a member of UK royal family makes official trip to Israel; Prince of Wales also set to visit Palestinian territories

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

Prince Charles seen during the funeral late former president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)
Prince Charles seen during the funeral late former president Shimon Peres at Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, on September 30, 2016. (Emil Salman/Pool)

Prince Charles is planning to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next month, the future British king’s office announced on Wednesday.

The trip, which comes amid the UK’s efforts to leave the European Union and sign bilateral trade agreements with other countries as well as an ongoing controversy over anti-Semitism in the UK Labour party, will be only the second official visit to Israel by a member of the royal family since the State of Israel was founded in 1948.

Charles, known formally as His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, is scheduled to attend the World Holocaust Forum in Jerusalem to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on January 23, 2020.

At the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, the prince will join dozens of other world leaders who are traveling to the capital for the event, hosted by President Reuven Rivlin and Yad Vashem. So far, confirmed participants include the presidents of Russia, France, Germany, Italy and Austria, as well as the kings of Spain and Belgium, and many other senior dignitaries.

Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth’s first-born son and the first-in-line to the throne, will not be accompanied by his wife Camilla. Instead, the Duchess of Cornwall will attend a January 26 ceremony with 200 Holocaust survivors at Auschwitz in Poland.

British Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan said in a statement that he was “delighted” about the prince’s arrival. “Prince Charles has visited Israel twice in the past, and I am pleased that this time he will get to see a bit more of Israel.”

The future monarch has visited Israel twice before, in 1995 and 2016, to represent the queen at the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, respectively.

These trips, during which he also visited the grave of his paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, at the Church of Mary Magdalene on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, were billed as private visits.

A Russian priest stands by the grave of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Greece, great-grandmother of Prince William, at the Mary Magdalene Church, in Jerusalem, on June 27, 2018. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

January’s trip, however, “will be the first time that The Prince has undertaken a programme of engagements in Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” according to a statement issued by his office.

At the invitation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Charles will also visit the “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” where he will “undertake engagements on behalf of the British Government.”

The British Consul-General in Jerusalem, Philip Hall, who serves as de facto ambassador to the Palestinians, also said he was “delighted” at the future king’s trip to the Palestinian territories.

“This visit will build on Prince William’s visit last year and allow The Prince to add to the many warm and longstanding relationships he enjoys across the Arab world,” Hall said in a statement.

Britain’s Prince William meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 26, 2018. (AFP Photo/Pool/Thomas Coex)

In June 2018, William, Charles’s eldest son, visited Israel and the Palestinian territories, marking the first time a member of the royal family, after seven decades of unofficial boycott, came on an official visit to the State of Israel.

During his stay, the Duke of Cambridge visited the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall and addressed both Israelis and Palestinians in separate receptions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“This region has a complicated and tragic history — in the past century the people of the Middle East have suffered great sadness and loss. Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed,” William declared at both events. “I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbors, for a just and lasting peace.”

In Tel Aviv, the second-in-line to the throne hailed the excellent state of bilateral ties and praised Israel’s “essential vibrancy.”

Jordanian diplomat Nizar al-Qaissi, left, joined Waqf officials and the Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem in greeting Prince William on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, June 28, 2018. (British Consulate General Jerusalem)

Some Israeli officials were unhappy that the parts of William’s visit that took place beyond the 1967 lines, including those in East Jerusalem, were not organized by the British embassy in Tel Aviv but took place under the auspices of the country’s Jerusalem consulate, which is located in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in the city’s eastern section.

Indeed, the prince’s official itinerary, released a few days before his arrival, listed Jerusalem’s Old City as part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

On the Temple Mount, William was greeted by Nizar al-Qaissi, a Jordanian diplomat with the kingdom’s diplomatic mission to Ramallah, against the wishes of the Israeli authorities.

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