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Dear Prince William, if you have to go, make it count

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Dear Prince William,

To be honest I’d rather you didn’t go to Israel this summer. Much better to stay home with Kate and help look after the new baby. Why not take some paternity leave and set a good example for Britain’s fathers?

But I realise you don’t really have a choice in the matter. You’re going, and that’s that.

Your employer is Her Majesty’s Government, and your job is to ‘bat for Britain’ in whatever way is considered most useful to our national interests. So if you have to go, make it count. Make it count by understanding the real purpose of your visit. Make it count by asking the right questions when you get there. And make it count by meeting the right people.

If you come back understanding what makes some of us, including many Jews, so angry about Israel perhaps the whole thing will have been worthwhile after all.

A shift in protocol

The first thing I’d ask of you is to recognise that your trip marks a big shift in UK diplomatic protocol.

You are the first senior member of the Royal Family to make an official visit to Israel in its 70-year history. And it’s not been for a lack of invitations.

Up until now it’s always been understood that politics has been the stumbling block. As recently as 2015 a Whitehall source explained the position to the Daily Telegraph:

“Until there is a settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the Royal family can’t really go there.”

So what’s changed?

There’s been no breakthrough in relations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. In fact, the reverse is true. The relationship is at an all-time low following Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the indivisible capital of the Jewish State of Israel. Something the UK has so far chosen not to endorse. For the Palestinians, whether in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza, things just get worse. So your visit is hardly a reward for progress on the peace making front.

Brexit

There’s only one way to understand this trip. And that’s Brexit.

Last week in an interview with Ynet the British Ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey, said your stay “…wouldn’t be a political visit. It would be a visit about the strength of the contemporary partnership and relationship between the UK and Israel.”

That means it’s about business. And when was a conversation between nations about business not political?

I suspect the origins of your visit go back to April last year when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Prime Minister Theresa May for talks in Downing Street. At the end of the visit the two leaders announced they were “preparing the ground” for a trade deal by setting up a “joint working group”.

The following month when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made his own visit to Israel, he told reporters in Jerusalem, as he stood alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu:

“We are building a global identity as a Britain that’s coming out of the EU and we want to build on our trading partnership with you. We are the biggest European trading partner with Israel … We have the largest, fastest-growing Aston Martin dealership anywhere in the world here in Israel.”

Our trading relationship with Israel is currently worth about £4.9 billion but it’s clear that after our EU exit and free of Brussel’s trade shackles we’re looking to beef things up considerably.

In the last few years there’s already been the biggest deal in UK-Israel history with Rolls-Royce winning a £1 billion contract to service and maintain its Trent 1000 engines for the Israeli airline El Al.

Meanwhile, the Israeli defence firm Elbit Systems is in a consortium that provides the Ministry of Defence with training aircraft and simulators.

As Ambassador Quarrey told the Guardian in May 2017:

“We’re seeing trading bilateral relationships between the UK and Israel, in science and trade for example, doing better than ever. But there’s the potential to do even better, particularly in the context of Brexit.”

It looks like technology, defence and pharmaceuticals (one in seven National Health Service drugs come from Israel) will be the focus of a future post EU trade deal that could set the template for the new age of ‘Global Britain’.

The cost of doing business

So be under no illusions about why you are being sent to Israel. This is the new world of post-Brexit diplomacy and you are about to become its public face.

Soon, if it’s not happened already, Israel will be like China and Saudi Arabia, too big a trading partner for the UK to fall out with. Too much will be invested (quite literally) in the relationship for any political leverage in the name of human rights to be applied with any success. Every strengthening of business ties will weaken the cause of justice and human rights. Leaving the EU will lower the bar on UK standards in more ways than one.

Take your own causes with you

So what thoughts should you take to Israel and who should you ask to see when you get there?

If I were you I’d want to keep in mind the causes I’ve already chosen to champion, where you have an interest and knowledge.

The Royal Foundation, which you set up with wife Kate and brother Harry, has chosen four areas of work for its focus.

  • Armed forces
  • Conservation
  • Mental Health
  • Young people

Why not let these areas shape your itinerary in Israel or at least the questions you may care to ask your hosts?

Armed forces – Like your brother you served in the British Armed Forces so you have an insight into the reality of military life. Why not ask to meet with the veteran combatants of Breaking the Silence? They work to stimulate public debate about the price paid by young soldiers who must control a civilian population on a daily basis. They aim to end the occupation.

Conservation – If you want to understand how conservation can become a tool of ethnic cleansing then visit Britannia Park. It’s a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund starting in the 1950s, and with the financial aid of British Jews. The forest covers up the remains of three Palestinian villages Ajjur (4,330 residents), Dayr al-Dubban (850 residents) and Kudna (520 residents). The Palestinians who fled were never allowed to return. Kibbutz Beit Nir was established on the land belonging to the village of Kudna.

A visit here would help you understand why the Palestinian people see the creation of Israel as an act of forced displacement and colonisation. Ask for a guide from Zochrot (‘remembering’ in Hebrew) a Jewish Israeli NGO which promotes acknowledgement and accountability for the ongoing injustices of the Nakba (‘Catastrophe’ in Arabic).

Mental health – You have a particular interest in mental health and have done much to promote understanding in the UK.  Why not ask the British charity Medical Aid for Palestinians to meet you at their offices in Gaza to explain the mental health issues facing Palestinian children there?

Among children living in bombarded areas of Gaza, the rate of severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been recorded as 54%. Immediately after the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza, the World Health Organisation estimated that up to 20% of the population of Gaza may have developed mental health conditions, corresponding to 360,000 people requiring mental health or psychosocial interventions.

Young people – If you want to meet young people,  go to Bethlehem and see the work of the Holy Land Trust’s ‘Young Girls Empowerment programme’. It’s a project designed to educate, develop and inspire young women to become leaders rather than become disengaged, marginalized and oppressed people. This project helps young Palestinian teenage girls to see themselves as creators of their own fate, rather than as victims of their circumstances.

So as you can see, there’s lots you can choose to do that fits well with your own priorities and will give you a deeper appreciation of what’s taken place in Israel over the last 70 years.

Prince William, if you have to go to Israel don’t just be a post-Brexit salesman for UK Plc. Make it count by getting informed and bring that learning back home.

Yours sincerely

Robert Cohen

About Robert Cohen

Cohen is a British writer. He blogs at Micah's Paradigm Shift. http://micahsparadigmshift.blogspot.co.uk/

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13 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson
    March 10, 2018, 11:38 pm

    RE: “So never mind peace, and never mind justice, and for sure never mind whatever happens to the Palestinian people. With Brexit happening we need to start building trade in new places. Israel fits the criteria well.” – Robert Cohen

    MY COMMENT: So Brexit has reduced the U.K. to slumming. I suppose this is a classic case of “just deserts”.

  2. lonely rico
    March 11, 2018, 1:57 am

    > Robert Cohen

    … visit Britannia Park. It’s a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund starting in the 1950s, and with the financial aid of British Jews. The forest covers up the remains of three Palestinian villages Ajjur (4,330 residents), Dayr al-Dubban (850 residents) and Kudna (520 residents).

    William, as a prince of Canada, you might also visit Canada Park –

    “A beautiful 80,000 acre of lush greenery known as Canada Park, sits just off the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This oasis of rest and recreation amidst the rocky outcrop and archaeological backdrop of the region has been funded and supported at Canadian taxpayer expense.
    It also happens to be located in the Occupied Territories sitting atop of what were once three thriving Palestinian villages, Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalo.
    During the 1967 Israeli-Arab War, nearly 10,000 Arab residents were driven out of their homes and forced to march for days over rocky hillsides to safety. Some died along the way. Israeli soldiers then set about destroying the villages and plowing under their orchards. The villages ceased to be as if they never existed and the former residents now live as refugees … Canada Park … is seen as a symbol of the close relationship between Canada and Israel.”

    http://www.thecanadiancharger.com/page.php?id=5&a=848

    William, sitting quietly with you lovely wife in these shaded groves, you might reflect on the cruel destruction of the Palestinians who were uprooted, their villages and lives erased to make way for this symbol of Canada’s deep love for the state of Israel.

    For further information –

    • LHunter
      March 17, 2018, 10:44 am

      As they sit in Canada Park I hope they get a sense of deja vu and reflect on the brutal violent colonization of Canada and the current mistreatment and ongoing denial of treaty rights that our First Nations people continue to endure.

      Am i alone here in being disgusted at the fact that Royals continue to find favour with the public. Why do we give a flying f*ck about Royals? Santa Claus has done more good for the world than they ever have or will. Off with their crowns.

  3. JosephA
    March 11, 2018, 10:58 pm

    Robert,

    Thank you for such wonderful and poignant suggestions regarding the UK and Israel. I wish, one day, that these suggestions might be heeded.

  4. Mayhem
    March 12, 2018, 8:40 am

    Some perspective – a former editor-in-chief of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, David Landau, wrote in 2012 that the royal snubs were “part of this nasty, petty British intrigue to deny Israel that rankling vestige of legitimation that is in their power to bestow or withhold”. Now Britain cannot deny the reality of Israel as is happening with the Arab world too, which is showing greater acceptance of Israel and a growing willingness to co-operate with it.

    • John O
      March 12, 2018, 11:23 am

      A more likely reason for the “snubs” has been the fact that many British servicemen were murdered by sociopathic terrorists like Begin and Shamir, with whom successive British governments subsequently had to deal. Even Margaret Thatcher, supporter of apartheid South Africa, and representing a Parliamentary constituency with a significant Jewish population, found Israel’s leaders hard to stomach.

      • festus
        March 12, 2018, 12:03 pm

        British Royal Family. The only welfare queen larger than Israel.

    • Misterioso
      March 12, 2018, 3:24 pm

      @Mayhem

      Don’t confuse Egypt’s President el-Sisi and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salmen with “the Arab world.” Having lived there for a considerable time, I can assure you that the “Arab street” utterly detests the entity known as “Israel” and supports the Palestinians (the indigenous inhabitants) in their struggle against their fascistic/racist/expansionist/ethnic cleanser, illegal/brutal occupier.

      • Maghlawatan
        March 12, 2018, 3:29 pm

        2 satraps keeping a lid on their populations.
        After Mubarak was deposed a mob attacked the IsraeLi embassy in Cairo. Ordinary Arabs hate cruel Israel.

      • LHunter
        March 17, 2018, 10:58 am

        As someone who has also lived and worked the the ME I can fully confirm that. Arabs from N. Africa to the Gulf are overwhelmingly pro Palestinian. Just like in the West, the Arab governments/dictators/monarchs often do not reflect the sentiment on the street.

        Some support the Palestinians as a way to show their disdain for the west, some support the Palestinians for humanities sake, some because of tribalism and others because they see similarities in their own struggles for freedom. Regardless, support is very strong.

  5. CHUCKMAN
    March 12, 2018, 10:00 am

    Princes get sent only as confirmation of status quo.

    A crowd-pleasing “movie star” appearance for the receiving nation.

    Never anything else.

    And look who is sending him?

    Theresa May is loyally attached to Britain’s Israel Lobby.

    We have many indications for that.

  6. Misterioso
    March 12, 2018, 4:16 pm

    For the record:

    https://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2018/03/saudi-evil/

    “Mohammed Bin Salman: The Truth Behind The Reformist Facade”

    By Craig Murray, 8 Mar, 2018

    EXCERPTS:
    “There was a revealing coincidence of timing yesterday. Philip Hammond made a speech in which he pleaded with the EU to allow the UK continued free access to their financial services markets, on the basis of mutually recognised standards. At the same time, Theresa May met the Saudi Crown Prince in Downing Street and discussed specific legal reductions of those standards in the City of London, to allow for the stock exchange flotation of part of Saudi state oil giant Aramco.

    “It is symbolic because the toxic addiction of the ruling classes to Saudi cash has been lowering British standards of basic decency for generations. The most blatant example was when Tony Blair as Prime Minister intervened directly in the justice system to prevent the pursuit of corruption charges against the stench-ridden arms dealers of BAE, on grounds of ‘national security.’ The myths about the impartiality of British justice have seldom been so comprehensively exposed. Where there is really dirty money, Blair is seldom far away.

    “The use of British supplied weapons by the Saudis to maim and kill children in Yemen on an industrial scale has penetrated public consciousness despite the best efforts of mainstream media to sideline it, and Jeremy Corbyn was absolutely right to highlight the involvement not just of arms manufacturers but of the British military. The government and royal fawning has been accompanied by an extraordinary deluge of pro-Saudi propaganda from the mainstream media this last two days for Saudi Arabia and its ‘reforming’ Crown Prince.”

    “Bin Salman may have a slightly different take on religion to those previously controlling Saudi Arabia, but in fact he is a much more dangerous fanatic. He is an extreme Sunni sectarian, driven by a visceral hatred of Shia Muslims. This is expressed in an aggressive foreign policy, causing a further destabilisation of the Middle East which threatens to tip over into catastrophe, as Bin Salman seeks to turn up the heat against Iran in proxy conflict in Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. That he is doing so in active and functional alliance with Israel is the world’s worst kept diplomatic secret. Saudi/Israeli cooperation in Lebanon and Syria is to my mind the most dangerous global flashpoint at present.”

    • LHunter
      March 17, 2018, 11:34 am

      MBS is a madman. His tiny concessions to appease western sensibilities distract most from the war mongering he is doing and planning. Saudi Arabia is one of the worst countries in the world for human rights violations. I despise their ruling elites and religious zealots as much as I despise the Zionists.

      It makes sense that Israel and Saudi are now chums given their respective disregard for humanity and regard for maintaining and expanding their clout. It also makes sense that the US and Britain are sitting at the table looking for favours/money or any other way to exploit this unholy union.

      It’s amazing to see just how far Britain has slipped since the collapse of her colonial empire. She is now groveling to rogue states for business and sending her Royalty to make nice. Shameful past with an even more shameful near future it would appear. The only bright light is Corbyn but i worry about his chances given the British elites and influencers and zio nutters are out for his blood. The fight in Britain is a fight between corporate interests and the common man. Sounds all too familiar.

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