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UK’s Prince William could visit Western Wall during Israel tour

Prince William
AFP

Britain’s Prince William may pay a visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall during his upcoming visit to Israel and the Middle East, two officials involved in planning his trip said according to the Times of Israel.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the official rabbi of the holy site told reporters that UK authorities were exploring options regarding a possible royal visit but declined to state if it had been confirmed.

Amid speculation, an official in Jerusalem told the Times of Israel that a visit to the Western Wall was on Prince William’s tentative agenda.

A spokesman for the duke of Cambridge released his schedule on Monday for his week-long trip to Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Kensington Palace hinted that the second-in-line to the throne was considering a visit to the wall.

His Royal Highness will receive a “short briefing on the history and geography of Jerusalem’s Old City from a viewing point at the Mount of Olives,” the Palace reported. He will then “travel a short distance to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene where he will pay his respects at the tomb of his great grandmother Princess Alice."

AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

The Western Wall -- the holiest site in Judaism -- lies in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians want as capital of their future state, whilst simultaneously the Jewish State claims the whole city as its undivided capital. Much of the international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem.

If the prince was to visit the contested site it was be dubbed a “private visit” meaning no official representative the host country would have to accompany him, allowing him to circumnavigate recognition of sovereignty over the site. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s visit to the wall last week was designated private, as was US President Donald Trump’s visit last year.

William’s trip will include also meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.

The Prince will be accompanied by Chief UK Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and 10 advisers including his senior adviser sir David Manning (former UK ambassador to Israel).

The trip is something that has been discussed for a number of years, and the Prince “is very much looking forward to it,” the spokesperson said.

Prince William is also expected to visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Jonathan Brady (POOL/AFP)

"We look forward to contributing to strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two peoples," a statement from the Palestinian presidency on official news agency WAFA said.

It is also understood that William will be focusing on the youth by visiting grassroot organizations and Palestinian and Israeli representatives from civil society.

There have been no previous official visits by members of the British royal family to the Palestinian Territories.

The visit by the second in line to the throne "is at the request of Her Majesty's government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities", an earlier statement said.

William will also be the first close relation of Queen Elizabeth II to make an official visit to Israel, following trips made previously by the monarch's cousins the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester.

Netanyahu said earlier that the British royal's trip would be "a historic visit" to his country.

(Staff with agencies)

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