Prince Charles to visit Palestine
On Friday 24 January Prince Charles will become the most senior royal to pay an official visit to Palestine as he meets President Abbas in occupied Bethlehem. This follows the visit of Prince William in 2018.
In an interview in the National newspaper, the Caabu Director explained that whilst Charles’ visit marked a milestone but was unlikely to inspire much hope for the Palestinian people.
“For the Palestinians, it’s all very well having leading visitors come for a short visit to get a brief glimpse of what life is like there but they know that life isn’t going to change for them. This will not bring the occupation to a close any quicker or allow their economy to flourish.”
On the issue of the recognition of Palestine Doyle said that he did not “believe the British government is likely to make a bold move on the Israel-Palestine front. The government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going to be more focused on issues such as Brexit. To some extent the engagement with Israel at this level is about procuring a free trade deal going forward.”
Writing last month on the visit, Chris Doyle asked exactly what Prince Charles will see and do in Bethlehem. “How this will pan out will be intriguing. Will the 71-year-old be given a first-class tour of the wonders of the Israeli occupation? There is plenty to pick from. He could hardly miss the 30 feet high wall that encases Bethlehem, cutting it off from its historic fields and olive groves.
Maybe he will be given a tour of Banksy's Walled Off Hotel, that sits in the shadow of this monstrosity and tour its museum inside. One doubts he will stay the night in one of its unique suites, not least as the hotel is in the sights of a nearby Israeli watchtower.
Could he visit one of the many communities threatened by demolition such as at Khan Al Ahmar to the east of Jerusalem?
This would infuriate the Israeli authorities although one has to ask why British officials should pay attention to that, given a crime against humanity is being planned. Perhaps Charles could express solidarity with Palestinian refugees. Bethlehem hosts three UN refugee camps, with Palestine refugees who have languished there ever since the start of the Nakba in 1947.
Also hard to miss would be the necklace of 42 illegal Israeli settlements that encircle Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Suhour, all built over the last five decades of occupation. To the west is the largest settlement in the entire West Bank, Beitar Illit. Charles could make his own assessment as to whether the Israeli government - itself packed with settlers - has any intention of withdrawing them to allow a viable Palestinians state.
Such visits are the stuff of nightmares for diplomats. The Duke of Cambridge's tour will be seen as a successful blueprint but still, where Israel-Palestine is concerned every word and gesture has to be carefully calibrated and tested.
Prince William visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, but in a private capacity without Israeli officials in case this was seen to legitimise Israeli claims. William made no public comments about the charged politics of the situation, save to express hope for peace in the Holy Land. Charles may follow the same line but does have a record of speaking out when his passions are aroused.
The reality is that this is all about promoting Britain and its soft power. The photo-ops and the good will generated are expected to fuel future British-Israeli ties, perhaps a post-Brexit free trade agreement, whilst extending a fig leaf to the Palestinians that they will not be forgotten.
The latter part is a tough ask, as to visit the occupied territories, the colonisation of Palestinian land and their resources, and say nothing, is tantamount to tacit approval.
The Prince will be in the unenviable position of witnessing major violations of international law but being compelled to remain mute in front of injustice.”