It’s royal arrogance
HRH’s aide should be fired for behaving as if Israel was still one of Britain’s colonies
LAST WEEKEND, there were two non-official events of concern to British-Israeli relations. The first one took place in Tel Aviv: the Israeli national football team defeated Russia, and secured Britain’s place in the European Cup finals. Millions of Brits cheered for Omer Golan, the Israeli forward who scored the victory goal. It seems that Israel has never been so popular in the United Kingdom. The other event took place in the assembly hall of the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London. Three-hundred participants — Israelis, Palestinians and local hosts — gathered to discuss one bi-national state for Israelis and Palestinians as a means to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of the widely accepted two-state solution. This conference is yet another attempt to crown London as the anti-Zionist capital of Europe. If Lord Balfour would have listened to the 300 weirdos at SOAS, he probably would have turned in his grave.
I have no doubt that Prince Charles belongs to the camp of Israel’s supporters in the stadiums and pubs, and not to the Israel hate-club on certain campuses. His Royal Highness is known to be a good friend of the Jewish community, and Israel also has a good relationship with him. Just a few months ago, he hosted the Speaker of the Knesset, MK Dalia Itzik, and there is no suspicion that her visit left him with a bitter taste. Prince Charles also visited Israel for the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, even if a visit for the purpose of attending a leader’s funeral doesn’t count by protocol as an official visit of state.
For that reason, it was rather surprising and disappointing to learn that one of the Prince’s closest aides, Clive Alderton, sent an email to one of his colleagues rebuffing a suggestion by the Israeli ambassador, Zvi Heifetz, that they visit Israel. “Safe to assume”, wrote the arrogant aide, “there is no chance of this visit ever actually happening”, so as not to let Israel use the visit to “burnish its international image”.
I wouldn’t like, heaven forbid, to meddle in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom, but such an aide isn’t worthy of serving HRH. The British style has a worldwide reputation for its sense of dignity and sharp use of understatement. One should refrain, therefore, from the use of the word “ever”, which is alien to the world of diplomatic expressions.
Moreover, Mr Alderton would have been far better-suited to serving in the Great British Empire when Palestine-Israel was governed by a British mandate declared by the League of Nations. The smug “ever” would have been more appropriate in the Ministry of the Colonies; and as far as I know, that office has been closed for quite some time now.
Not only pompous, but also ludicrous; with all due respect to Britain, the royal family, HRH Prince Charles and his aides, isn’t this just a little exaggerated? Does the aide truly believe that a princely visit can change the world? Does he really believe that such a visit can have a dramatic impact on Israel’s international image? In fact, Israel enjoys plenty of high-ranking official visits — kings and presidents, prime ministers and foreign-affairs secretaries, including some very important British dignitaries. One more visit (or one less), as important as the visitor is, won’t budge anything either way.
Let there be no misunderstanding: it will indeed be very pleasant and important to host Prince Charles in Israel; I personally have nothing but good feelings towards him, which I expressed in writing more then once. I would also like to use this opportunity to extend my own personal invitation to him. But I would also like to send with it a piece of advice: it would be better if His Royal Highness would attend to the visit’s technicalities personally rather then trusting them to the incompetent service of his aides and assistants. Yossi Sarid is a former Israeli minister of education, chair of the Opposition and chair of the Meretz Party. He is a columnist for Ha’aretz and a lecturer in the Interdisciplinary Academic Centre in Herzliya