Prince William will travel to Israel this summer, in the first-ever official visit by the British royal family to the Jewish state, his residence declared Thursday.
While royals have traveled to Israel in the past, no member of the British monarchy has ever come to country on an official tour.
The official visit will be the first in Israel’s almost 70-year existence, during which time nearly every other country in the world has been visited by a representative of the Crown.
“The Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the Summer,” Kensington Palace announced on Twitter.
The Duke of Cambridge will visit Israel, Jordan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories in the Summer. pic.twitter.com/VSdx7ts1Ff
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) March 1, 2018
“The visit is at the request of Her Majesty’s Government and has been welcomed by the Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian authorities,” the statement added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the announcement of the upcoming trip by the second-in-line to the throne.
“This is a historic visit, the first of its kind, and he will be welcomed here with great affection,” Netanyahu added. “I have ordered the Foreign Ministry director-general to coordinate preparations for the visit to ensure its success.”
President Reuven Rivlin said he and his wife Nechama were “happy” to hear the announcement and look forward to welcoming Prince William.
“A very special guest, and a very special present for our 70th year of independence,” he wrote on Twitter.
Nechama & I were happy to hear @KensingtonRoyal announcement, and look forward to welcoming #PrinceWilliam, the Duke of Cambridge, on an official visit to the State of #Israel later this year. A very special guest, and a very special present for our 70th year of independence.
— Reuven Rivlin (@PresidentRuvi) March 1, 2018
The visit was also applauded by the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jonathan Arkush.
“We are delighted that in the year of Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Duke of Cambridge will be making the first official royal visit to the country,” Arkush said in a statement.
“This is something I have been calling for for a long time. The visit is testimony to the fact that the UK and Israel are key allies with a strong trading relationship and close cultural links. This visit will bring our two nations even closer together,” he added.
Last year, a planned visit to Israel by Prince Charles, William’s father — said by a UK Jewish community leader to be planned for the summer of 2017 — was reportedly canceled by the Royal Visits Committee, the branch of the Foreign Office that coordinates trips on behalf of the royal family.
The Sun tabloid reported at the time that the visit was nixed in an apparent effort “to avoid upsetting Arab nations in the region who regularly host UK Royals.”
Prince Charles’s attendance at former president Shimon Peres’s funeral in 2016 and the funeral of slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 were not considered official royal visits and did not include diplomatic meetings. The same was true of a brief 1994 visit by his father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to attend a ceremony commemorating his mother, Alice of Battenberg, who is buried on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives.
While in Israel for Peres’s funeral, Charles also visited the Mount of Olives grave.
William is the elder son of Charles and the late Princess Diana. He is married to Kate Middleton, and is the father of two. The royal couple is expecting their third child in April.
On the sidelines of a climate change conference in Paris in 2016, Netanyahu reportedly invited Prince Charles to make an official visit to Israel, UK daily The Telegraph reported at the time, but this offer was reportedly swiftly rejected.
“Until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the royal family can’t really go there,” a British government source told the newspaper at the time. “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.”
Israeli officials have bristled at royals’ unwillingness to come to the Jewish state, while they appear to have no qualms about visiting authoritarian states like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
In 2007 an aide to Prince Charles warned in an internal email leaked to the press that a visit by the prince would likely be used by Israel to try to boost its global standing.
“Safe to assume there is no chance of this visit ever actually happening?” deputy private secretary Clive Alderton wrote to private secretary Sir Michael Peat. “Acceptance would make it hard to avoid the many ways in which Israel would want [Prince Charles] to help burnish its international image.”
President Reuven Rivlin has issued several invitations for the British monarch to come to Israel, most recently in May 2017 during a meeting with visiting Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
“We would be happy to welcome a member of the royal family here in Jerusalem, especially marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration,” the president said.