What happened: Israeli leaders paid their respects to the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip and sent condolences to the Royal Family ahead of his funeral at Windsor Castle this weekend.
- In a letter to the Queen, President Reuven Rivlin described Prince Philip as “a man of honour and duty,” referencing his service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.
- The President noted Prince Philip’s visit to Israel in 1994, the first senior member of the Royal Family to do so, and recalled his speech at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. The Prince said, ‘We may dislike individual people, we may disagree with their politics and opinions, but that should never allow us to condemn their whole community simply because of the race or religion of its members … the Holocaust may be over, but there are altogether too many examples in the world today of man’s capacity for inhumanity.’ Rivlin noted, “How true, and how sad.”
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I express my deepest condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on the passing of the Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was the consummate public servant and will be much missed in Israel and across the world.”
- Opposition Leader Yair Lapid echoed Netanyahu, saying: “I send my deep and sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Family and the people of the United Kingdom on the death of His Royal Highness Prince Philip”.
Context: Prince Philip had a special affinity with the State of Israel, the place where his mother, Princess Alice is buried.
- Princess Alice is recognised as one of the Righteous Amongst the Nations at Yad Vashem for her role in protecting victims of Nazi Germany in Athens during the War.
- Princess Alice wished to be buried in Jerusalem next to her aunt Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, who was buried at the Church of Maria Magdalene in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
- In 1994 Prince Philip and his sister, Princess Sophie, travelled to Yad Vashem and planted the tree in her honour.
- Prince Philip’s son and grandson have both visited Israel on official Royal visits in the past few years, reaffirming the Royal Family’s connection to the Jewish state.
- In June 2018, Prince William came to Israel for the first official Royal visit since the state was established in 1948. He took part in a wreath laying ceremony and met with Jews who were rescued by Britain as children.
- During a dinner event at the British ambassador’s residence, Prince William spoke of “Israel’s remarkable story” as “one of inventing, creating, innovating, and striding confidently into its future.” He said that “the ties between our two countries have never been stronger, whether in our record levels of trade and investment, our cooperation in science and technology; or the work we do together to keep our people safe”.
- The Prince of Wales came to Israel in January 2020 on his first ever official Royal visit. Prince Charles had been to Jerusalem twice to attend the funerals of Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin.
- Last year the UK and Israel celebrated 70 years of diplomatic ties. In early 2020 BICOM released an in-depth report on Britain-Israel relations covering the extent of bilateral trade and cooperation in defence, science, tech, business, and cybersecurity in what amounts to a new strategic partnership between the two countries.
- The UK-Israel economic relationship has grown by 25 per cent over the past two years. Today, commercial ties are worth some £9bn annually, and expanded by 72 per cent in just six years between 2012 and 2018.
- The UK is Israel’s third largest export market, behind the US and China, with goods totalling $4.3bn in 2018, an increase of 21 per cent since 2012.
Looking ahead: The UK-Israel relationship has warmed significantly in the past decade, and two official visits since 2018, after decades without one, was a clear sign by both countries to strengthen bilateral relations.
- As Britain continues to redesign its network of global relationships after leaving the EU, its strategic partnership with Israel – an innovative export driven economy trading with Europe and Asia – will become increasingly important in the years ahead.