REUVEN Rivlin went off-script in his meeting with Prince William, and tasked him with conveying a message of peace from Israel to the Palestinians.
The comments surprised the audience, as the royals are careful to avoid politics, and in Israel the government, not the President, normally sets the agenda between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I know that you are going to meet President Abbas,” said Rivlin, sitting at his official residence with William. “I would like you to send him a message of peace and tell him it is about time that we have to find together the way to build confidence as a first step to bringing an end to the tragedy between us that has gone on for more that 100 years.”
Rivlin’s comment was notable as it came when tensions between Israel and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority are sky high, and the PA is shunning America, which traditionally oversees negotiations.
Rivlin appeared to be trying to revive an Israel–PA relationship which both the Israeli government and the US administration are disillusioned with. The White House’s Middle East team was in the region last week, but the PA wouldn’t schedule a meeting.
Donald Trump’s aide Jared Kushner suggested that Abbas doesn’t have “the ability” to make peace with Israel, and that the PA is “scared” of US efforts to make peace.
Saeb Erekat, a senior PA official, hit back by saying that the US administration is “biased” towards Israel and said that the peace plan it is preparing, which Palestinians fear will be an imposed solution that favours Israel, will fail.
When Rivlin raised the issue, William had little to say, and he made do with a general comment about his “hope that peace in the area can be achieved”.
The Prince’s message on peace was scheduled for later in the day in carefully-crafted comments, and in such a delicate visit there was no way that William was going to speak off the cuff.
In his scripted speech to Israelis several hours later he said, “This region has a complicated and tragic history – in the past century the people of the Middle East have suffered great sadness and loss. 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. The United Kingdom stands with you, as we work together for a peaceful and prosperous future.”
Rivlin gave William a photo album with pictures of his great-great-great-grandfather’s visit to Palestine in the mid-1800s.
The album included an article that Rivlin’s great-grandfather, Yosef Rivlin, wrote in a Hebrew newspaper describing the warm welcome he received.
William’s gift to Rivlin was more contemporary. The two men talked about football, and how William supports Aston Villa and Rivlin loves Liverpool.
William then gave the President a Liverpool FC shirt, signed by former team captain Steven Gerrard.
There was more football for William in Jaffa, where he watched Jewish and Arab children playing in a football game together – and then played with them in a penalty shoot out, scoring two of his three shots. He was relaxed as they played, chatting with the children.
William also got in the spirit of Tel Aviv beach life, strolling on Frishman Beach in a short sleeve shirt, chatting to mayor Ron Huldai and visiting a lifeguard tower.