Israeli president tells Charles he still expects a visit from the Queen
The Prince of Wales began a historic two-day visit to the Middle East by holding talks with Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who told him “we still expect your mother to come”.
Charles met the statesman at his official residence in Jerusalem ahead of attending a gathering of world leaders, holocaust survivors and other dignitaries marking 75 years since the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi concentration camp.
The heir to the throne will give a speech at the World Holocaust Forum – the largest international event in Israel’s history – where around 40 world leaders are due to attend, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
He will warn that “hatred and intolerance still lurk in the human heart”, but society must remain “resolute in resisting words and acts of violence”.
Polish President Andrzej Duda has refused to attend the event, complaining he had not been allowed to address the audience, whereas Mr Putin and other leaders will speak.
His country’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: “This is disrespect to Poland and to all the heroes of the Second World War who were saving Jews by not giving voice to the president of Poland.
“He should have been given (the) floor,” he told the BBC.
Mr Rivlin welcomed the prince to his official Beit HaNassi residence in Jerusalem and told him Israel “deeply appreciates” his attendance at the forum, being staged at Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre in Jerusalem, which he said was aimed at fighting racism and fascism today as well as recalling the past.
Before the talks began, Mr Rivlin told Charles: “It starts with the Jewish people but we never know where it ends. Everyone needs to be very careful.
“With this gathering we show that when we are united we can fight this phenomenon.”
The heir to the throne is making his first official tour of Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories – the most senior royal to visit.
The Queen has never made an official trip to Israel or the Occupied Palestinian Territories during her 67-year reign, and has not taken a long-haul flight for a number of years.
But Mr Rivlin said: “We are still expecting your mother to come.”
The president recalled how he was born as a subject of Charles’ grandfather King George VI, and how the British flag was replaced by the Israeli flag at the establishment of the state.
After almost 30 minutes of talks, Charles was given the rare honour of planting an English oak tree in the garden of the residence.
It comes 25 years after the Duke of Edinburgh also planted an oak in Israel in memory of his grandmother Princess Alice, who is recognised as Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem for saving Jews during the Holocaust.
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, in Israel for the day’s engagements, joined the two world figures for the brief ceremony.
While the planting by Philip was a reminder of “deep sadness”, the Chief Rabbi said, “This is a symbol of hope and represents the laudable aspiration you both have for sustainable development across the world”.
He expressed hope it would “sow the seeds of peace” in the region and the world.