Should William 'stick to the Baftas'? How people have reacted to prince's Gaza comments

The Prince of Wales has waded in to the argument over the war in Gaza.

Prince William during a visit to the British Red Cross at its headquarters in central London, to hear about the humanitarian efforts taking place to support those affected by the conflict in Gaza. Picture date: Tuesday February 20, 2024.
Prince William has called for an end to the fighting in Gaza. (Alamy)

What's happening?

The Prince of Wales's decision to release a statement about the war in Gaza, calling for an end to the Israel-Hamas war “as soon as possible”, has sparked widespread reaction.

The Royal Family generally does not comment on political issues but William chose to comment as MPs prepared to vote on whether to call for an immediate ceasefire in the region. In a statement, William said it is “critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released” as he visited the London headquarters of the British Red Cross (BRC), which is playing a key role in the humanitarian response in the region.

Some have welcomed his intervention, with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis hailing his "words of compassion"; others have pointed out the dangers of the heir to the throne being so outspoken about such a divisive issue; and others have been outwardly critical - with one of the more critical comments coming from Nigel Farage, who said William should 'stick to the Baftas'.

Key people behind the statement

FILE PHOTO: British Foreign Secretary David Cameron meets with Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati (unseen) in Beirut, Lebanon February 1, 2024. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Foreign secretary David Cameron. (Reuters)

The Prince of Wales: William released a statement on Tuesday – but it is understood he had been considering making a statement since the 7 October attacks by Palestinian militant group Hamas that killed about 1,200 people and saw around 250 taken hostage.

David Cameron: The foreign secretary may have had a “hand” in William’s statement, some commentators have suggested. Lord Cameron has previously called on Israel to implement a “permanent ceasefire” and some royal experts believe he may be behind William’s statement.

Why it matters

William’s statement is arguably the strongest put out by a member of the Royal Family on the war in Gaza so far and comes after King Charles described the 7 October Hamas attacks as a "barbaric act of terrorism" the week after they took place.

Just months into his reign, Charles also described Russia’s actions as “an unprovoked full-scale attack". He also praised the "remarkable courage and resilience" of Ukrainians and said that the world stood “united” in support of Ukraine’s plight.

The statements appear to mark a distinct shift in the general protocol of royals avoiding making statements on political issues – particularly ones as divisive as the Gaza conflict. The monarchy is traditionally politically neutral, and the late Queen maintained this neutral stance throughout her reign.

But the King has clearly taken a different view and has made several interventions during his 18-month reign. Issues he has spoken out on include the cost of living crisis in his first Christmas speech, as well as his comments on the war in Ukraine.

William’s statement perhaps signals that he, like his father, will take more of a stance on political issues. Indeed, one of William’s close aides last year told CNN that the future king’s plans to meet world leaders and discuss major issues during a trip to New York showed “the evolution of Prince William as the global statesman”.

The Prince of Wales himself said in November last year that he wanted more than “just being” a patron to important causes. He said highlighting causes such as homelessness and climate change was important to show “social leadership” but he added that he wanted to “actually bring change”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 20: Prince William, The Prince of Wales, waves as he visits the British Red Cross at British Red Cross HQ on February 20, 2024 in London, England. The Prince of Wales undertakes engagements which recognise the human suffering caused by the ongoing at British Red Cross HQ on February 20, 2024 in London, England. The Prince of Wales undertakes engagements which recognise the human suffering caused by the ongoing war in the Middle East and the subsequent conflict in Gaza, as well as the rise of antisemitism around the world. The Red Cross are providing humanitarian aid in the region via the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, including Magen David Adom in Israel and the Palestine Red Crescent Society. (Photo by Kin Cheung - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
There's been a mixed reaction over the prince's intervention. (Getty)

His latest comments on the war in Gaza are a step up in simply highlighting an issue he deems important – his words can have a political impact and not just shine a spotlight on causes he is associated with. Calling for an end to the war in Gaza – the day before MPs vote on that very issue – puts him firmly in the political arena.

Some commentators have suggested that William was guided in his statement by former prime minister and current foreign secretary – Cameron. Ed Balls, the former shadow chancellor and senior Labour MP, said on ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I wonder whether the foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, isn’t saying to the palace, ‘If you’re thinking of an intervention, this is the week to do it. Help us to ratchet the pressure up on Israel, now’s the time.’”

What people are saying

Knew it would cause a stir: "I'm told we should note he doesn't specifically use the phrase 'ceasefire' - he could have done but chose not to, the first clear hint that he doesn't want this rare intervention to be seen as political. However, we're told the Foreign Office was informed of his statement, and they told No 10. All sides knew it would cause a stir" – Rhiannon Mills writing for Sky News

Deep concern: "Since his visit to the region in 2018, the Prince of Wales has shown a deep concern for the wellbeing of all those affected by the conflict in the Middle East and his words of compassion today, which I welcome, are yet further evidence of this" – Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on Twitter.

A new age: "It's not unusual, we're living in a different age now... it's very much in keep with his character" – The Queen’s former spokesman Dickie Arbiter told TalkTV

Badly advised: "I think he's been very badly advised; I think it's quite appalling. I see the hand of Lord Cameron in all this, who somehow has shifted into the side of telling Israel to stop to seek peace. He should have rejected the request by Lord Cameron, or whoever it was in the government, because this is on the eve of tomorrow's debate" – Royal Biographer Tom Bower told GB News

Prince criticised: "You don’t sound off about a topic that’s about to be discussed in parliament" – Parliamentary sketch writer Quentin Letts speaking to Talk TV

Stick to the Baftas: “I'm not sure that our future King should be doing this. He should stick to the Baftas” Honorary president of Reform UK Nigel Farage on GB News

Dangerous waters: “(Prince William) wants to move away from the mere platitudes that are the typical stuff of royal statements. With the king incapacitated, what William does and says are necessarily subject to additional scrutiny” – Royal writer Richard Kay for the Daily Mail

Welcome intervention "Fair play to him for having the ability and desire to come out and speak publicly about what is a hugely important issue. That is a welcome intervention. Everyone is society is entitled to their opinions, whether that’s the king or the heir to the throne" – SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn speaking to the News Agents podcast

Plea for hostage release: "Israelis of course want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible, and that will be possible once the 134 hostages are released, and once the Hamas terror army threatening to repeat the 7 October atrocities is dismantled" – Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy, as reported by the BBC