British Royal Family may make first state visit to Israel

British Royal Family, June 2012 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

British sources have indicated that the British royal family may make its first official state visit to Israel to mark 100 years since the historic Balfour Declaration paved the way for ‘the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

“This is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom. We will mark 100 years since the Balfour Declaration and I am greatly honored to extend an official invitation to the royal family to visit Israel to mark this event,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said, passing along the invitation via British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.

In the 68 years of Israel’s existence, the royal family has refused or ignored multiple state invitations to Israel, while making official visits to dictatorships and repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia. Charles, the Prince of Wales, attended the burial of late Israeli President Shimon Peres last year and took the opportunity visit his paternal grandmother’s grave. The royal family apparently avoids the politically charged region due to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, according to reports.

The anniversary of the Balfour Declaration is Nov. 2. The letter, signed by Arthur James Balfour in 1917, represented the first political recognition and promise of support for establishing a Jewish state.

The nation has a strong Judeo-Christian heritage and ruled Palestine during the years 1922 to 1948.

Despite the seeming apathy on its part, the British royal family has interesting Jewish connections and has remained free of accusations of anti-Semitism.

  • The mother of Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth’s aging husband, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was recognized by Yad Vashem in 1994 as a righteous gentile for providing refuge for a Jewish family in her palace in war-time Athens and at her request was buried in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. In 1994 Prince Philip made his only visit to a special ceremony there, but Buckingham Palace made it clear the visit was unofficial.
  • The Queen and Prince Philip’s son, heir to the throne, Prince Charles, was circumcised by Rabbi Jacob Snowman M.D., a leading British mohel and royal circumciser – a royal custom dating back to George I.
  • The mother of Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William, was Carole Goldsmith before her marriage. Her father, Ronald Goldsmith, is Jewish.

With such strong links to both the Jewish people and the land of Israel, many speculate as to the reason for the absence of a royal visit.

Firstly, royal visits are made at the request of the British government and are not a decision made by the royals themselves.

Second, some British governments have been accused of appeasing Arab nations and of not wanting to offend sensitives regarding the Palestinians. Meanwhile, with nations such as Saudi Arabia making lucrative purchases of British weapons, this creates an incentive for the honor of a royal visit.

Third, Replacement Theology – the idea that the Church replaced Israel in inheriting God’s promises and that the land of Israel does not belong to the Jews — has seeped into the church in England, historically a Christian nation. However, signs of hope exists as, when the Palestinians threatened to sue Britain for the Balfour Declaration, newly installed Prime Minister Teresa May directly rebutted their claims, as reported by KNI News.

Finally, others have accused Britain of direct prejudice against Israel.

“The continuing failure or refusal of any royal to make an official or state visit to Israel is an anomaly that suggests bias, and undermines potential British influence in the region,” said Elliott Abrams, former Deputy Head of the U.S. National Security Council during George W. Bush’s presidency, writing for the Council on Foreign Relations in 2014.

No announcements have been made as to whether the visit will incorporate the West Bank or Gaza.

Whatever the complications of British-Israel history, a British royal family visit has all the ingredients of a special occasion. Many in Israel would consider such a visit an honor. However, when God sets up his throne in Jerusalem, representatives of all nations will be expected to visit to honor him, as the Prophet Zechariah wrote.

“Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. If any of the peoples of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty, they will have no rain. If the Egyptian people do not go up and take part, they will have no rain. The Lord will bring on them the plague he inflicts on the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.”
Zechariah 14:16-19