LONDON - President Shimon Peres yesterday added 'Knight' to the long list of titles he has acquired over the years. Peres received the honorary knighthood of the Order of St. Michael and St. George from Queen Elizabeth II in Buckingham Palace in London yesterday. Further coverage on Page A4.
Peres also met yesterday with Prince Charles, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
The president was greeted on his arrival at Buckingham Palace yesterday afternoon by the Master of the Household, Air Vice-Marshall David Walker, who escorted him to his private half-hour audience with the Queen. Peres later described the meeting as "friendly and informal."
The president told the Queen that the British had learned the Bible, and Isael had learned democracy from the British. He added that the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict was divided into two parts: the period of war, and the period of peacemaking. The president thanked the Queen for Britain's friendship toward Israel. However, he said, there were shadows over the friendship, mentioning the White Paper that prohibited Jewish immigration to Palestine and recent attempts to institute an academic boycott of Israel.
Before taking leave of Her Majesty, Peres asked her to meet the women aides who had accompanied him to London. After the meeting, Peres said he was very excited, and "this whole ceremony was in my opinion not for me as an individual, but recognition of Israel."
The president explained that he had not invited the Queen to visit Israel because "a royal visit is something very complex that requires two years of preparation, and it is not suitable now to invite the Queen when it is unclear what government Israel will have in two years' time."
Peres gave Queen Elizabeth two gifts: a letter that her father, George VI, had written officially recognizing Israel and initiating diplomatic relations between the two countries, and a pair of pomegranate-shaped candlesticks.
Later, Peres met with Prince Charles at Clarence House, the prince's official residence, and invited Charles to visit Israel. Chales was in Israel to participate in prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, but has never been on an official visit as a representative of the British royal family. Last year, internal memos by the prince's aides came to light in which it was said that he would never visit Israel.
Charles thanked Peres for the invitation but did not accept it. He said his lifelong dream was to visit his grandmother's grave in Jerusalem. Charles' grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is buried in the Church of Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives. Charles also noted that he celebrated his 60th birthday last week, and was the same age as Israel.
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