When Prince William arrives in Tel Aviv on Monday for a trip that will include time in Israel and the West Bank, he will become the first-ever member of the British royal family to undertake an official visit to those places. For a region with a long history of controversial British involvement, that’s a significant milestone.
William’s spokesperson says the visit is “non-political,” in keeping with the royal family’s ceremonial constitutional role. But for people across the region, the visit will carry political undertones, not least because — alongside engagements to play soccer with schoolchildren and help refugees in the West Bank — he is scheduled to meet with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. And the visit comes at a time of increased tensions, just months after deadly clashes on the Gaza borderand President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
It is an area of the globe that cannot escape its history, a history in which Britain has played a major part. So, on the eve of what the British Foreign Office hopes will be a bridge-building tour, here is a short guide to Britain’s complicated role in the modern history of the region.