June 27, 2018
Duke greeted by honour guard and marching band on historic trip to occupied West Bank
You have not been forgotten, Prince William tells Palestinians
The Duke of Cambridge was clapped and cheered by Palestinians as he visited a refugee camp in Ramallah during an historic first visit by a member of the British royal family to the occupied West Bank.
A red carpet, marching band and honour guard welcomed the 36-year-old prince on his official visit, during which he toured a clinic and school in Jalazone camp, where 15,000 people live.
The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, told William during their meeting that he hoped his homeland would be a fully independent state by the next time he visited the Middle East.
The duke ended the day with a speech at the British consul-general’s residence in Jerusalem, in which he told Palestinians: “My message tonight is that you have not been forgotten ... I hope that through my being here and understanding the challenges you face, the links of friendship and mutual respect between the Palestinian and British people will grow stronger.”
The duke met Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, on Tuesday, who had asked him to deliver a “message of peace” to Abbas.
The Palestinian leader, who met the duke in his Ramallah offices on Wednesday morning, reaffirmed his “full commitment to achieving a full and lasting peace based on a two-state solution where the state of Palestine lives side by side with the state of Israel, with both supervising peace and security”.
You have not been forgotten, Prince William tells Palestinians
He added: “I hope this will not be the last visit ... that your next visit will be in the state of Palestine when we have our full independence.” William responded with his own hopes for “peace for the region”.
At one point the duke told Abbas he was “very glad that our two countries work so closely together” – a break with diplomatic protocol, which does not refer to the Palestinian Authority as a country.
Later dozens of young men cheered and clapped and took photographs of their royal visitor at the refugee camp, which opened in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war; the camp’s unemployment is high and violent clashes between Palestinians and a neighbouring Israeli settlement and its forces are common. William ate hummus and other local dishes and visited a school and clinic run by UNWRA, the UN relief programme that assists Palestinian refugees.
The duke then attended a cultural event at the Ramallah Municipality that included Dabke, the traditional Palestinian dance, and the chance to meet some local entrepreneurs.
“It was really exciting,” said Lina Saadeh, 50, who along with her sister, Carmen, runs a business making homemade bags based on Palestinian designs. Saadeh gave William a bag made from an olive tree, a sign of peace. Saadeh said he told her he would show it to the Queen.
While diplomats and media have praised the visit as historic, some Palestinians questioned the motive behind William’s trip.
Tarek, a grocer from the nearby al-Amari refugee camp, said he hoped William was nothing like the US president. “Trump is the problem. He’s destroyed the Palestinian people. If he’s like Trump, I don’t like him,” he added, as others agreed.
“If the trip is for the sake of the Palestinian people, he’s welcome,” said Ahmed Ali, another stallholder. “But we’re against anyone who visits just for the sake of Israel … We haven’t forgotten Britain’s old stance, the Balfour declaration and the division of Palestine.”
“It’s very important that the visit isn’t just because of [interest in] Israel and Jerusalem,” said Hanna Haj Yehia, 27, who has a teaching degree from Tel Aviv University. She travelled to Ramallah from her mother’s Palestinian village in central Israel for shopping. “[William] should see the conditions in Gaza. The most important thing is the people of Gaza and the sanctions that are on them.”
Israel occupied the West Bank in 1967. Under the Oslo peace agreements, the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction over parts of the West Bank.
The duke’s visit comes amid growing tensions in the region, with deadly clashes on the Gaza border following protests as Israel marks its 70th anniversary year, and the decision by Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the disputed city of Jerusalem.
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