‘No FO banon roy­als’

Miliband talks to Charles ‘to scotch any sug­ges­tion of dif­fi­cul­ties’ over Is­rael trip Now Prince Michael hopes to visit

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page - BY JENNI FRAZER NEWS

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

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