British cabinet minister resigns over unauthorized talks with top Israelis

Share

The International Development Secretary is now on a plane back to the United Kingdom from Africa with the widespread expectation that she faces the sack over unauthorised meetings with the Israeli Prime Minister and other senior Israeli figures.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "It is not true that the Prime Minister knew about the International Development Secretary's meeting with PM Netanyahu before Friday 3rd November".

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Labour's shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said she should either call in her independent adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allen, or "state publicly and explain your full reasons for why Priti Patel retains your confidence despite clear breaches of the ministerial code".

"As you know from our discussions, I accept that in meeting with organisations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel, my actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a Secretary of State", she said.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Ms Patel said: "I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government for what has happened and offer my resignation".

Patel did not reveal her schedule of meetings with Israelis in advance, and she was vague about when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and his deputies were made aware of the talks.

And her future appeared to be decided after reports this morning showed she held two more meetings since her trip to Israel in August.

During her trip she also met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Foreign Ministry Director Yuval Rotem, as well as with business people, charities, and other organizations.

It is understood that Downing Street was told about the NY breakfast with Mr Rotem when Ms Patel revealed the details of her trip to Israel, but No 10 only learnt on Tuesday about the meeting with Mr Erdan.

Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported Wednesday that Patel had also traveled to the Golan Heights in a breach of normal diplomatic protocol. "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it".

Number 10 confirmed that Ms Patel had discussed the possibility of United Kingdom aid being used to support medical assistance for refugees from the Syrian civil war arriving in the Golan Heights.

The International Development Secretary, who is facing mounting criticism, was "in the air" on her way to Africa, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told the Commons, adding that she "did not suddenly contrive" the visit in order to avoid facing MPs.

Patel, who was born in London to a Ugandan Indian immigrant family, is - or was - a rising star on the right wing of the Conservative Party and a zealous advocate of leaving the E.U. Her political idol is Margaret Thatcher, who served as prime minister from 1979 to 1990 and died in 2013.

The paper reports that Patel told May about her meeting with Netanyahu, as well as the details of her plan for United Kingdom aid to be shared with the Israelis.

Share