What Made Britain Break Its 70-Year Ban on Royal Visits to Israel?

March 13 2018

Since its founding the Jewish state has never received an official visit from a member of the House of Windsor, although some have come to Israel in a private capacity. Recently, however, Britain announced that Prince William, the eldest grandson of the queen, will make an official trip to Israel later this year. Elliott Abrams speculates as to what caused this change in policy:

There are various theories. One is that Prince Charles was the wrong royal to send, and time had to pass until someone in the next generation came along. Another theory is that the Foreign Office, [which coordinates such visits], simply could no longer maintain its claim that a visit would sour relations with the Arab states when those states are improving their own relations with Israel. Finally, it has been argued that the Foreign Office and royal refusal (and it is not clear whether the “no” over the years came from the bureaucrats or the royals, or both) was based on Zionist violence against British colonial administrators in the pre-1948 years of the Palestinian mandate. That obstacle would seem very odd when the queen in 2012 was willing to shake the hand of Martin McGuinness, who had been a very senior IRA commander in 1979 when the IRA killed Lord Mountbatten, to whom she was close and who was Prince Philip’s uncle. . . .

[The visit] is very much in line with President Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, acknowledging that it has the right every other nation has to choose its capital city, and the American effort at the United Nations system to stop the unfair and unequal treatment of Israel. Seventy years is a long time to wait for normal treatment, and of course Israel is far from achieving it even now. But these steps are symbolic of real progress.

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More about: House of Windsor, Israel & Zionism, Prince William, United Kingdom

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war