‘No FO banon royals’
Miliband talks to Charles ‘to scotch any suggestion of difficulties’ over Israel trip Now Prince Michael hopes to visit
DAYS AFTER the Foreign Secretary reacted to last week’s JC by announcing that the Foreign Office would not stand in the way of any royal visit to Israel, this newspaper has learned that the Queen’s cousin, Prince Michael of Kent, is considering favourably a formal invitation to visit the country next year.
The invitation was made some months ago by the former Israeli ambassador, Zvi Heifetz, after Prince Michael expressed a wish to see his grandmother’s grave there.
After receiving clearance from Jerusalem, Mr Heifetz is understoodtohavediscussed the visit over lunch with the Marquis of Reading, a close friend of Prince Michael. By chance, the pair met Yigal Zilkha, a leading Israeli businessman whose company, Queenco Leisure, runs casinos in Greece and Romania. Mr Zilkha confirmed to the JC that he had agreed to help underwrite the costs of a visit.
Last week, the JC reported that an aide to Prince Charles wrote in an internal email that there was “no chance ever” of Clarence House accepting an invitation to Jerusalem.
But remarks made in Israel this week by Britain’s Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, appear to have opened the door to a royal visit. Mr Miliband told reporters at his Tel Aviv press conference with his opposite number, Tzipi Livni, that he had spoken to Prince Charles on Friday evening after reading the JC story. He said: “I think it would be very... not very bad, but very wrong for anyone in Israel to have the impression that somehow Prince Charles didn’t want to come here on the basis of an email exchange amongst his staff.”
When he had spoken to the Prince, “he said to me that he remembered well his last visit here at the tragic time of Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral. He also made it absolutely clear — and I’m very pleased to make it clear today — that assuming the Israeli government is keen to organise a visit by the Prince of Wales... or other members of the royal family, then of course the government and Clarence House will be happy to enter into those discussions to find the right time and the right place to take this forward. So I think we can scotch comprehensively any suggestion of difficulties in that area.”
Asked by the JC if the Foreign Office would have any objection to Prince Michael making a visit, a press spokesman said: “I refer you to what Mr Miliband said in Israel. He was speaking in response to your story on Prince Charles, but the sentiment for all royal visits would be the same.” He added that now the invitation to Prince Michael had been issued, “consultations will take place between the Royal Household and the [British] government”.
The Marquis of Reading told the JC that he would “most certainly recommend” that the prince accepted the invitation — “without a doubt. I very much hope he will go, although there are a lot of things to take into account. I would say that His Royal Highness will not just be meeting Israelis, but also Christians and Muslims”.
Lord Reading, who emphasised that it was “early days” in relation to the visit, said that he had felt personally that it was “far too long” before an Israeli head of state, the late President Ezer Weizman, was able to make a state visit to Britain. “That was in 1997, 50 years after the creation of the state.” A return visit, he hoped, would soon be on the cards — perhaps as soon as May next year, to help Israel mark its 60th anniversary.
Prince Michael of Kent “hopes to visit”
The toast is: the President and the State of Israel, made by Prince Charles at Monday’s World Jewish Relief dinner