Israeli president urges William to take 'message of peace' to Palestinian leader

The Duke of Cambridge has been urged by Israel's president to take a "message of peace" when he meets Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday.

President Reuven Rivlin asked William to encourage the Palestinian Authority President to take the "first step" with Israel to end the "tragedy" between them which has gone on for more than a century.

The head of state's comments have drawn William into the politics of the region and given the remaining days of his historic Middle East tour greater importance.

The duke is due to sit down for talks with Mr Abbas when he visits Ramallah in the Occupied Palestinian Territories where he will learn about issues facing refugee communities and celebrate the culture, music and food of the people.

Speaking at his official residence in Jerusalem during a meeting with the duke and his mall delegation, Mr Rivlin said: "I know you are going to meet President Abbas, I would like you to send him a message of peace and tell him it is about time, it is about time that we have to find together the way to build confidence.

"Build confidence as a first step to bring to understanding that we have to bring to an end the tragedy between us that goes along for more than 120 years."

The duke's visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is the first time a member of the royal family has travelled to the areas at the request of the Government, and something William was keen to do.

It comes during a period of tension in the area - dozens of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during protests this year at the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip in the run-up to celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel.

Later in a speech, made at the Tel Aviv residence of Britain's ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, the duke told garden party guests: "This region has a complicated and tragic history - in the past century the people of the Middle East have suffered great sadness and loss.

William meets Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife
William meets Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife

"Never has hope and reconciliation been more needed. I know I share a desire with all of you, and with your neighbours, for a just and lasting peace."

Commenting on the Israeli president's request to William, Britain's ambassador said: "I don't think that the duke will be bringing a particular message to either side.

"But I think he'll be very interested in hearing from each side what they think they can do, what they think can be done more generally to move us out of the current situation and move us towards peace.

"We've obviously got a very strong interest in seeing progress from where we are now but I don't think the duke will be taking a particular political message."

Mr Rivlin, a former speaker in the Israeli parliament or Knesset, has made a point of reaching out to his country's Arab population and is known to support merging Jewish settlers and potentially millions of Palestinians into a single state.

William visits Holocaust memorial
William visits Holocaust memorial

He hailed William for "writing a new page in history" with his visit, but there were lighter moments in his remarks as he joked that while Israel had used British laws as the model for its own legal system, there was one aspect of British culture which it had unfortunately failed to import: the Premier League.

"We are still trying," he said.

The president and the duke exchanged gifts, with Mr Rivlin, a Liverpool football club fan, receiving a shirt signed by his team's former captain Steven Gerrard, while William was given a copy of the first known Jerusalem photograph album, containing pictures taken by Elizabeth Finn, wife of the British consul, in the 1850s.

It includes a picture of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, when he visited Jerusalem.

Earlier the duke had paid a visit to the official residence of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke of the importance of William's presence in Israel.

The Duke of Cambridge presented football fan @PresidentRuvi with a @LFC shirt signed by Steven Gerrard ?

-- Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) June 26, 2018

He told the duke as he arrived: "It's a very historic visit. The whole people of Israel are excited."

At the garden party William spoke about his visit earlier in the day to Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, and how the extermination of six million Jews must never be forgotten.

He told the guests: "Israel's remarkable story is partly one of remembering this terrible past but, also, looking forward to a much more hopeful future.

"There is - and I've seen it already - an essential vibrancy to this country.

"From the early stories of the kibbutzim; to the revival of Hebrew as a living, modern language; to the hi-tech economies that we see around us here in Tel Aviv - the modern story of Israel is one of inventing, creating, innovating, and striding confidently into its future."

During the reception William met Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, the ex-girlfriend of Hollywood royalty Leonardo DiCaprio, who described the duke as "the best-looking prince in the world".

After meeting William she said: "He is very, very charming. I think both he and his brother are good looking.

"But he is the best-looking prince in the world."

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