Prince William To Make British Royal Family's First Official Visit To Israel and 'Palestinian Territories'

Prince William Kate Middleton
Britain's Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and his wife Princess Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge make their way to the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate to mark the centenary of Passchendaele, The Third Battle of Ypres, in Ypres, Belgium July 30, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Prince William will become the first British Royal to make an official visit to Israel and the "Palestinian Territories," which include the West Bank and Gaza, Kensington Palace announced. His trip to the region, which will include a visit to Jordan, will take place in the summer.

He will travel without his pregnant wife Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, who is due to give birth to the couple's third child, after Prince George and Princess Charlotte, in April.

A spokesman for Prince William told Newsweek further details such as dates and an itinerary will be released in due course. A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office, which requested the summer trip, said she did not have any dates to release.

"We welcome the announcement of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge's visit to Israel," Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, tweeted. "This is an historic visit, the first of its kind and he will be welcomed here with great affection. I instructed the @IsraelMFA to coordinate preparations for the visit to ensure its success."

Prince William's trip was also welcomed by the Palestinian authorities. "The Palestinians and their leadership warmly welcome the news of Prince William's forthcoming visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and are deeply appreciative of the consistent support of #TheRoyalFamily for Palestinian self-determination," tweeted the official account of the Palestinian Mission UK.

In 2016, Prince Charles visited Israel to attend the funeral of Shimon Peres, the country's former president and prime minister, but this was in a private, personal capacity. While in Israel, Prince Charles attended the Mount of Olives' Church of Mary Magdalene to visit the grave of his paternal grandmother Princess Alice of Battenberg.

The Palestinian question is a thorny issue for Britain because of its historic role in pre-1948 Palestine, which it governed as an occupying power. The British government now regards Israeli settlements as illegal and does not recognise any changes to the pre-1967 borders "other than those agreed by the parties." As such, an official royal visit to Israel creates diplomatic hazards.

Back in 2015, a report in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed U.K. government official who suggested there would be no official visit by a senior royal any time soon because of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the royal family can't really go there," said the source. "There have been inward state visits by Israel, which just involves dealing with the head of state, but in Israel so much politics is caught up in the land itself that it's best to avoid those complications altogether by not going there."

But as well as an interest in creating peace and a lasting answer to the Palestinian question—the British government's stated wish is for a two-state solution—Britain is looking outwards into the world again as it prepares to exit the European Union and needs to build new trade relationships. Visits by British royals are an important diplomatic tool in this mission.

Britain already has a well-established commercial relationship with Israel. According to government data, bilateral trade between the U.K. and Israel was worth $7.5bn in 2015 and the U.K. is Israel's second largest trading partner.