May 24, 2018 / 11:10 PM / 7 months ago

UK's Prince William will visit Jerusalem, Ramallah in June

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth’s grandson Prince William will visit Jerusalem and Ramallah when he becomes the first senior member of Britain’s royal family to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories next month.

Britain's Prince William talks to award recipients during a day of DofE presentations at Buckingham Palace in London, Britain May 24, 2018. Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool via REUTERS

William, second-in-line to the British throne, will begin his trip to the Middle East in Jordan on June 24 before traveling to Tel Aviv the following day, his office Kensington Palace said in a statement on Friday.

The prince will spend the next three days in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ramallah in the West Bank, although the palace gave no further details of where he will go or who he will meet.

The trip, which William is carrying out on behalf of the British government, was announced in March and was widely welcomed then by both Israeli and Palestinian officials.

“It is an historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be received here with great enthusiasm,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office said it was an important visit “which we hope will contribute to strengthening ties of friendship between the two peoples”.

Britain regards Israel as a close and important ally but the visit comes at a time when the two countries have publicly disagreed over a number of major issues.

Like most of its Western allies, the British government criticized U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv earlier this month.

Dozens of Palestinian protesters were shot dead in subsequent protests at the Gaza border which Prime Minister Theresa May described as “concerning” and called for Israeli restraint.

The governments were also at odds over Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, a move lauded by Israel while Britain pledged to maintain the agreement.

Despite their differences, London has adopted a more positive approach to Israel since May became leader and William’s trip will be the first official state visit by a senior British royal to Israel, which in April marked its 70th anniversary of independence from British Mandatory rule.

Queen Elizabeth’s cousins the Duke of Kent and the Duke of Gloucester made unofficial visits to Israel in 1998 and 2007, while William’s father Prince Charles attended the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2016.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison

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