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

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