British Royal Family May Visit Israel to Mark Balfour Declaration Centenary

President Reuven Rivlin reportedly extended the invitation at a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Jerusalem last week.

The British royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace on June 11, 2016.
The British royal family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace on June 11, 2016. Tim Ireland/AP

The British royal family may visit Israel in an official capacity later this year, on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, according to British media reports.

Though members of the royal family have traveled to Israel in the past on personal visits, an official visit of this kind would be a historic first.

President Reuven Rivlin reportedly extended the invitation at a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Jerusalem last week, citing the importance of the Balfour centenary. According to Whitehall sources, such a visit could take place this year, the Independent reported.

At their meeting, Rivlin told Johnson that "this is a very important year in the history of the relations between Israel and the United Kingdom.”

The 1917 Balfour Declaration by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour was the first political recognition of the Zionist aims by a foreign government. The declaration, from November 2, 1917, states: "His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

Last December, British Prime Minister Theresa May told the Conservative Friends of Israel that the Balfour Declaration “is one of the most important letters in history. It demonstrates Britain’s vital role in creating a homeland for the Jewish people. And it is an anniversary we will be marking with pride.”

Charles, Prince of Wales, visited Israel last October to attend former President Shimon Peres' funeral. After the funeral, he embarked on a visit to the Mount of Olives. There, in the Church of Mary Magdalene, he paid a secret visit to the grave of his paternal grandmother. The burial site is in East Jerusalem, which Israel captured during the Six-Day War and later annexed, but Britain does not recognize it as part of Israel. Charles' visit to the grave went unreported in the Israeli media, and neither his Facebook page nor his press team released a statement about it.