Life&Culture

Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership

Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership

British secretary of state for worldwide development Priti Patel has apologised for holding several secret meetings with Israeli officials during a family holiday in August, in which she discussed a number of issues, including India.

Ms Patel, MP for Witham in Essex, said she was proud of the role which Britain had played in "helping to make a homeland for the Jewish people" and said that the Balfour centenary should be celebrated with pride. "There is no United Kingdom financial support for the Israeli army", a Downing Street spokesperson said after it emerged that in the wake of her visit in August, Patel had discussed potentially providing some of Britain's aid money to Israel's armed forces which run field hospitals in the Golan Heights area.

"She is the cabinet minister in charge of Britain's aid budget but sees fit to go rogue in a foreign country with the assistance of lobbyists and that country's officials, but without the knowledge of the foreign office".

However, when reports of the meetings had first surfaced, Patel told the Guardian "Boris knew about the visit".

Priti Patel has been told her decision not to tell Theresa May she had met with Israeli politicians including Benjamin Netanyahu is a "resigning matter".

Downing Street has also been forced to deny that her meetings in the country had led to any change of political stance on the region.

The issue of undisclosed meetings also found its way to the House of Commons today in the form of an urgent question from the opposition, where Patel's minister of state for the Middle East, Alastair Burt, defended his boss' actions as she is on a visit to Africa this week. The Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance.

The only assurance the Development Secretary was able to give No10 was that she hadn't "organised meetings with foreign Governments outside of the normal channels while on holiday". [Patel] would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

However Downing Street said that she will not face an official inquiry into her failure to disclose the meetings.

Liberal Democrat global development secretary Baroness Sheehan said Ms Patel had "gone rogue" and should be sacked. "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it", Patel said in her apology statement.

Priti Patel discussed giving United Kingdom aid money to humanitarian projects in a disputed region of Israel, Number 10 has admitted.

Patel met with Netanyahu to discuss "the Israeli domestic political scene", she said, and to plan his United Kingdom visit, which took place last week. May yesterday summoned Patel to No 10 to "remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code".


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