Patel faces calls to quit after meeting Israel PM on 'holiday'

Nov 08, 2017, 00:38
Patel faces calls to quit after meeting Israel PM on 'holiday'

Described by fellow MP Theresa Villiers as one of Israel's staunchest friends in Parliament, the Secretary of State for International Development, Priti Patel, confirmed her determination to extend collaboration between Britain and Israel in her address to the Bicom/Jewish News conference last week.

Patel said she "regrets the lack of precision in the wording she used in these statements and is taking the opportunity to clarify the position".

She was accompanied by Lord Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), an influential lobbying organisation, during the visit in August.

The list showed that Patel also held meetings with Yuval Rotem, a senior official at the Israeli foreign ministry; Gilad Erdan, the minister for public security, information and strategic affairs; and Yair Lapid, a former finance minister in Netanyahu's coalition government and the leader of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party.

Patel apologized for failing to comply with the usual procedures that oblige ministers to inform the British Foreign Office before doing official business overseas and said she regretted her statement that Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was aware of the visit in advance.

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After details of Patel's meetings in Israel were first reported last week, Patel told the Guardian newspaper Johnson "knew about the trip".

Opposition parties had called for Patel, the senior-most Indian-origin member of May's Cabinet, to resign as minister in charge of the Department for International Development (DfID) and the country's aid budget if it emerges that she breached the ministerial code of conduct.

A Number 10 spokesperson said Mrs May had "full confidence" in her International Development Secretary and that she had not broken the ministerial code. The Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance.

"In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures".

Downing Street officials are already furious with Ms Patel, who has also admitted misleading journalists about the Israel trip. "I regret it and apologize for it".

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

Kate Ozmour, spokeswoman for the worldwide development of the opposition Labor Party, said Pattel should resign or undergo an investigation for violating the ministerial protocol.

In a clarification, she said that "this was not the case" and that he "did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

The Netanyahu meeting included "prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the United Kingdom on development and humanitarian issues", Israel-based newspaper Haaretz reports, noting that no minutes were kept.

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