William urged to engage with issues during historic Middle East visit

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The Duke of Cambridge is to make a historic visit to the Middle East visit but is already facing calls by a human rights group to go beyond royal diplomacy and engage with issues in the region.

William’s official trip to the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a first by a member of the monarchy, and to Jordan and Israel will be a major tour and a milestone for the duke.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said William will be welcomed with “open arms” while PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi told the Jerusalem Post the visit would allow the duke to connect with Palestinians on a “human level”.

Israel is celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Jewish state this year and the visit is likely to mark the event.

But Amnesty International UK has highlighted a number of what it claims are injustices and suggests the duke gets involved with the issues during his trip planned for the summer.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, said: “During his trip we hope Prince William visits some of the Palestinian communities affected by Israel’s 50-year occupation, including people in Hebron who’ve been torn from their families and livelihoods by the notorious Shuhada Street closure.

“He could also listen to families like Ahed Tamimi’s, who can tell him what it’s like to have children detained by the Israeli authorities for minor offences or simply for protesting against the occupation.

“Amnesty is currently campaigning for all countries round the world – including the UK – to ban the import and sale of all goods produced in the illegal Israeli settlements. We’d hope Prince William could see the moral strength of this position and support our campaign.”

The Israelis and Palestinians have been locked in a decades long conflict that at its essence is a dispute over land.

The Palestinians believe they have been subject to military occupation and forced to leave their homes while those who remained have endured an uneasy co-existence with the Jewish state.

While with hostile nations around it in the region, Israelis will say they have had to fight for survival but in doing so lasting peace and security has eluded the Jewish people who have settled there from around the globe.

Kensington Palace said the visit is at the request of the Government and further details would be announced in due course.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted that the arrival of William on the country’s 70th anniversary of independence was a “very special present”.

Prince of Wales visiting his grandmother Princess Alice of Greece’s final resting place in Jerusalem for the first time in 2016. (@ClarenceHouse)
Prince of Wales visiting his grandmother Princess Alice of Greece’s final resting place in Jerusalem for the first time in 2016. (@ClarenceHouse/PA)

Jonathan Arkush, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, applauded the announcement and said: “We are delighted that in the year of Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Duke of Cambridge will be making the first official royal visit to the country.

“This is something I have been calling for, for a long time. The visit is testimony to the fact that the UK and Israel are key allies with a strong trading relationship and close cultural links. This visit will bring our two nations even closer together.”

The Prince of Wales attended the funerals of both former Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former president Shimon Peres, but at the time the visits were not considered part of an official tour.

After Mr Peres’s funeral in 2016, Charles made a poignant visit to see his grandmother’s final resting place for the first time.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s mother, Princess Alice of Greece, is buried at the picturesque Church of St Mary Magdalene, above the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.

Philip visited his mother’s grave in 1994 when he travelled to Israel for a ceremony honouring her for saving Greek Jews during the Second World War.

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