Prince William will make the first official Royal visit to Israel this summer.
The second in line to the throne will visit the Jewish state, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, Kensington Palace confirmed.
Senior Royals have previously visited the country but never in an official visit. Prince Charles attended the funerals of both former prime minister Yitzchak Rabin and former president Shimon Peres.
The Duke of Cambridge’s great-grandmother, who was named Righteous Among the Nations for protecting Jews during the Shoah, is buried in Jerusalem.
An official visit, which must be requested by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has long been a dream for British supporters of Israel, and the lack of one was described as a “stain” on relations by Conservative Friends of Israel honourary president Lord Stuart Polak.
President of the Board of Deputies Jonathan Arkush welcomed the move, saying: “We are delighted that in the year of Israel’s 70th anniversary, the Duke of Cambridge will be making the first official royal visit to the country. This is something I have been calling for, for a long time. The visit is testimony to the fact that the UK and Israel are key allies with a strong trading relationship and close cultural links. This visit will bring our two nations even closer together.”
Simon Johnson, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council said: “There can be few better ways to mark the 70th Yom Ha’atzmaut than the announcement the HRH the Duke of Cambridge is to visit Israel. I am personally thrilled and delighted. Having worked closely with the Duke during my time at the FA, I know that he will be fascinated and interested and will make a lasting impression on all those he meets.”
It is understood that communal hopes for a Royal visit were raised by the Jewish Leadership Council during its annual meeting with David Cameron and Theresa May. Cameron’s receptive response to the prospects of such a trip offered hope it could finally happen.
Communal sources have long believed that Prince Harry was most likely to undertake any official visit but question marks emerged after the announcement of his wedding.
There had been media speculation the first visit could happen on or around the Balfour centenary but community leaders always believed such suggestions to be premature.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “I welcome the announcement of the forthcoming visit of HRH The Duke of Cambridge to Israel later this year. It will be a proud moment for the British Jewish community and a wonderful way to celebrate Israel’s 70th anniversary.”
Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tweeted: “Nechama & I were happy to hear @KensingtonRoyal announcement, and look forward to welcoming #PrinceWilliam, the Duke of Cambridge, on an official visit to the State of #Israel later this year. A very special guest, and a very special present for our 70th year of independence.”
We Believe in Israel (WBII), the network of 16,000 UK supporters of Israel, has welcomed news of the first official Royal visit to Israel.
The Duke of Cambridge (HRH Prince William) will visit later this year as part of a Middle East tour.
Luke Akehurst, Director of We Believe in Israel, said: “It’s long overdue for a member of the Royal Family to visit Israel, given our shared values and the significant and expanding links between the UK and Israel in trade, defence, security, culture, as well as the personal and family connections between many people in the UK and Israel.”