Friday, June 22, 2018

UK defends calling Jerusalem Old City part of ‘Occupied Palestinian Territories’

The British ambassador to Israel on Thursday defended describing Jerusalem’s Old City as being part of the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” in the itinerary for Prince William’s upcoming visit to Israel and the West Bank.

 “All the terminology that was used in the program was consistent with years of practice by British governments. It’s consistent with British government policy,” David Quarrey said.
The royal itinerary, published last week by Kensington Palace, raised some eyebrows in Israel, as it indicates that the palace considers the Old City to be Palestinian territory occupied by the Jewish state.

According to the itinerary for the June 24-28 regional visit, William — also known as the Duke of Cambridge — will travel first to Jordan, followed by Israel on June 25-27.
On June 27, “the program will shift to its next leg – the Occupied Palestinian Territories” and on June 28 Prince William — the second-in-line to the throne — will receive a “short briefing on the history and geography of Jerusalem’s Old City from a viewing point at the Mount of Olives,” Kensington Palace said.
“There’s no political message in this,” Quarrey insisted. “The Duke is not a political figure. He’ll be here to see a little bit of the country and to get to meet some of the people here. And also to get a flavor of Israel, to see what’s happening here, some of the extraordinary successes in technology, some of the great culture here. And he really wants to get under the skin of the country.”
The fact that the Duke of Cambridge’s visit to the Old City was billed as part of his visit to the Palestinian Authority had garnered some criticism from Israeli officials, with Jerusalem Minister Ze’ev Elkin accusing the second-in-line to the throne of “politicizing” his visit to the region next week.
“United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years and no distortion in the tour itinerary can change that reality,” Elkin said Monday.
Briefing Israeli journalists at his Ramat Gan residence, Quarrey said Thursday that William was looking forward to his arrival in Israel.
“It’s the first official visit by a senior member of the royal family. I think it’s going to be a great success,” the ambassador said. “I hope that it will be a celebration of the modern relationship, the modern partnership between the UK and Israel.”
The prince is expected to visit the Temple Mount, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Church of John the Baptist, as well as the Western Wall, all of which are located within the Old City, according to unconfirmed reports. None of those sites was specifically listed in the royal itinerary.
He’ll be here to see a little bit of the country and to get to meet some of the people here,” Quarrey said. “And also to get a flavor of Israel, to see what’s happening here, some of the extraordinary successes in technology, some of the great culture here.”
During the briefing, the ambassador did not comment on the future king’s itinerary for Jordan and the Palestinian Authorities. He also did not confirm reports that Prince William is expected to visit the Western Wall, though two sources told The Times of Israel last week that the Jewish holy site is part of the tentative schedule.
Sources in Jerusalem explained that the locations have not been publicly announced so far due to their political sensitivity, with one source saying that the Western Wall visit was being kept quiet to avoid identifying it as part of the tour of the Palestinian territories.
If William does visit the Western Wall, it would likely be billed as a “private visit,” as has been the case when other dignitaries have visited there recently. A private visit would not necessitate that William be accompanied by an official representative from the host country, thus allowing him to avoid the prickly issue of recognizing a sovereign body at the site. US President Donald Trump’s visit to the Western Wall and Church of the Holy Sepulchre last year was officially listed as private, as was a visit to the Western Wall by Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz last week.
 

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