Highlighting a glaring discord on the matter of Jerusalem between Israel and the United Kingdom, Prince William reportedly declined a request by Mayor Nir Barkat to meet in Israel’s capital, telling him that he would only meet with him in a different city.
William, a guest at the historic King David Hotel in Jerusalem, who has used the premises as a base of operations during his visits with Israeli and Palestinian Authority representatives, was invited for a meeting with the city’s mayor, Nir Barkat, on Tuesday.
However, Barkat was reportedly informed by British Embassy officials that the prince would not meet him in Jerusalem, but instead would be willing to do so at a reception that evening at the British ambassador’s residence in Ramat Gan.
In response to the royal reply, Barkat declined a meeting all together, stating that if William would not meet him in Jerusalem, he would rather not meet him at all. Aides said Barkat’s decision was made “out of respect for Jerusalem.”
William met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday, but is believed to have declined Barkat’s invitation over concerns that an official meeting would imply support of Israeli rights to the city.
William’s decision is believed to be tied to a recent controversy between England and Israel over the status of Jerusalem in the prince’s published trip itinerary, in which the Old City of Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives were referred to as “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” a distinction that raised ire in Israel for its insinuation that the historic and religiously significant locations did not belong to the Jewish state.
On Wednesday at P.A. headquarters in Ramallah, William told P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas he was “glad our two countries work so closely together,” a comment whose overtone of Palestinian statehood recognition was not lost on analysts.
The British foreign office did not comment directly, but affirmed the U.K.’s support for “the creation of a sovereign, independent and viable Palestinian state—living in peace and security, side by side with Israel.”
On Thursday, William donned a yarmulke to visit the Western Wall, and traveled to the historic Mount of Olives, home to the world’s oldest Jewish cemetery. He also visited the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene to visit the grave of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, also located on the Mount of Olives.