In West Bank, Prince William speaks of Palestinian ‘country’

Britain's Prince William reviews honour guards before meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on June 27, 2018

Ramallah (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) – Britain’s Prince William found himself on diplomatic thin ice during a visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank on Wednesday when he called the Palestinian Territories a “country”.

Meeting with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah, the prince appeared to fall foul of the complex language surrounding the Middle East conflict.

“Thank you for welcoming me, and I am very glad that our two countries work so closely together and have had success stories with education and relief work in the past,” he told Abbas, speaking without notes.

The international community typically refrains from referring to the Palestinian Territories as a country or state, instead supporting the Palestinian demand for a sovereign state in the future — the so-called two-state solution.

And while Palestine has observer status at the United Nations, it is not an officially recognised member state.

The Likud party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who the prince met in Jerusalem on Tuesday, rejects Palestinian statehood and supports Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Abbas’s Palestinian Authority is based.

Israel’s coalition government, considered the most right-wing in the country’s history, includes ministers who have voiced support for annexing the West Bank.

There was no immediate comment from the British foreign office or from royal officials in London on whether William made a slip of the tongue.  

The trip, the first by a senior royal to both Israel and the Palestinian Territories, comes at a particularly sensitive time after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

The US move outraged Palestinians and sparked deadly clashes on the border with Gaza.

On Thursday, the prince is to complete his stay by visiting historical and religious sites in east Jerusalem.