British officials announced last week that Prince William will pay an official visit to the Jewish state this summer. Although other members of the House of Windsor have come to Israel previously, they did so only in a private capacity—and even this was not allowed until 1994. The British Foreign Office, which coordinates such visits, had previously defended its unofficial boycott of Israel by stating that “many countries have not had an official visit.” To which Andrew Roberts replies:
That might be true for Burkina Faso and Chad, but the Foreign Office has somehow managed to find the time over the years to send the queen on state visits to Libya, Iran, Sudan, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, and Turkey. So it can’t have been that she wasn’t in the area. . . .
At least she could be certain of a warm welcome in Israel, unlike in Morocco where she was kept waiting by the king for three hours in 90-degree heat, or at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda, where they hadn’t even finished building her hotel.
The Foreign Office ban on royal visits to Israel was all the more powerful for its being unwritten and unacknowledged, like so much “club” or “social” anti-Semitism in Britain. As an act of “delegitimization” of Israel, this effective boycott was quite as serious as other similar acts, such as the academic boycott. Now it is over, and hopefully there will be many such visits, including of Prince Charles and [his wife]. . . .
When he gets back to Britain after his visit, Prince William will be able to tell the rest of his family what a wonderful place they were forced to miss out visiting because of the ban imposed for 70 years by a small group of Foreign Office Arabists. He will hopefully open the door to plenty more such visits, advertising to the world how much Britain values her brave democratic ally in the Middle East.