The BBC doesn’t get it, but Roger Boyes does. He has an excellent piece in the Times (£) today. Prince William’s visit is a snub to the camel corps.
I strongly recommend it. What? you don’t subscribe to the Times? I’m not cheeky enough to paste all of it into this blog, but perhaps this excerpt will tempt you.
William of Arabia, aka the Duke of Cambridge, heads out to dusty Ramallah today to meet the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. It’s a remarkable encounter for the second-in-line to the throne and not just because the Palestinian is a nasty piece of work (doctoral dissertation: “The secret relationship between Nazism and Zionism”). The sheer political sensitivity of an official trip to modern Israel and to the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank is such that no member of the royal family had ever undertaken one.
A shift in geopolitics has made the visit possible — and a cultural change in the Foreign Office, which has for many decades advised the royal household that it is better to don the appropriate headgear and butter up Arab autocrats than engage with the gritty detail of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. The fear of giving offence to princelings has been the defining trait of the so-called camel corps of Britain’s Arab enthusiasts within the Foreign Office. It has, with flanking assistance from oil men and aerospace executives, become an almost institutional lobby that sees Israel as the troublemaker of the region and Arab leaders as deeply misunderstood.
By the way, although I first read it in the newspaper, I looked online to see which way the comments were swingin’ At the time of writing they’re mostly supportive. Good.
As far as I’m concerned, it puts a certain gentleman in his place. (Link: see latter part of 3rd paragraph)
Almost four years ago I wrote this: (link: see section above the crocodile)
“This brings to mind the advice that a former British Ambassador to Amman gave to Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s.
"It is presumably in the national interest to do what we can to counter Arab fears and suspicions that the leader of HM opposition is already a prisoner of the Zionists.”
The gentleman in question is charming enough. I met him at a friend’s house. He has a great deal of admiration for Yassir Arafat and holds the kind of Arabist views that Oxbridge-FCO types imbibe from birth. With the exemplary manners of his ilk, he held forth on the topic, undeterred by not being particularly au fait with the facts. (at least not of the ‘other’ side of the story) Self confidence carried him through.
Our hostess had mischievously seated him next to me at dinner. All I can add is that his adulation for Arafat remained undiminished despite having slight reservations about being expected to kiss the corrupt, malodorous old rogue. Anyway, I imagine he would have his own views about the Royals visiting the region. The BBC of course remains impartial.