(JTA) – The British royal family will “likely” send a member to Israel on an official visit in what would be the first official visit to the Jewish state since its founding.
In a visit to Israel this week, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Israeli President Reuven Rivlin he would ask the royals to arrange a visit this year, The Times of London reported Thursday. Senior diplomats then told the Daily Express such a visit was “likely” to occur this year, the centennial anniversary of the Balfour Declaration.
Signed on Nov. 2, 1917, by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, the declaration stated the British government’s support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
The declaration, issued while the area that is now Israel was still under the control of the Ottoman Empire, represented a pivotal victory for Zionists and has been credited with helping pave the way for the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
But relations between the Zionist movement and Great Britain deteriorated after the British were given a mandate in Palestine by the League of Nations in 1918. Amid violent uprisings by local Arabs, the British severely limited Jewish immigration to the area they controlled, including during the Holocaust.
By the late 1940s, all the major Jewish Zionist movements in pre-state Israel were engaged in armed insurrection to drive out the British, who regarded these actions – and especially the deadly King David Hotel bombing in 1946 – as terrorism.
While members of the British royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, have visited Kenya and other countries where acts perceived as terrorism were committed against Britain and its citizens by anti-colonialist combatants, they have stayed away from Israel in their official capacity since the country’s establishment.
Neither Elizabeth nor Prince Charles is expected to visit Israel. Instead, a more junior member of the family – perhaps Princess Anne or Prince Edward – will be called upon to visit Israel, according to the Daily Express.
Prince Charles visited Israel last year for the funeral of Israeli President Shimon Peres. Charles’ father Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, also visited Israel to tour Yad Vashem, where a tree was planted in honour of Princess Alice, his mother.