UK Cabinet minister under fire over secret Israel meetings

UK minister Priti Patel held undisclosed meeting with Israel's Netanyahu

British aid minister Priti Patel was forced from office on Wednesday over undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials after Prime Minister Theresa May sought to reassert her diminished authority as she negotiates Brexit. United Kingdom ministers are required to notify the Foreign Office when conducting official business overseas, but Patel admitted that she failed to do so.

"I then discovered this morning that Number 10 had been told by Ms Patel about her meeting with Israeli foreign office official Yuval Rotem in NY and had specifically asked her not to include it".

The PM said her decision was "right" as "further details have come to light".

On Monday, Ms Patel apologised to Ms May on Monday for failing to report that she had met with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a holiday.

After a hastily arranged meeting not long after Patel landed in London, May's office released her minister's letter of resignation, in which Patel said her conduct in Israel had fallen "below the high standards" required of her post.

"I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, and how meetings were set up and reported", Patel said in a statement.

Later, Ms Patel insists the allegation that she kept the Foreign Office in the dark is false, telling a reporter: "Boris [Johnson] knew about the visit".

Priti Patel has been unable to face questions from MPs about "secret" meetings she held in Israel because she is away on government business.

Ms Patel also held a second meeting with Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament in September.

On 18 September, while in New York, Patel met Yuval Rotem, an official from the Israeli foreign ministry. "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".

On returning from Israel, Ms Patel commissioned work by DfID on disability, humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK.

Former Conservative foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind told BBC the meeting were "extremely unwise", adding: "Not only did she not tell the Foreign Office directly, so far as I'm aware the British Embassy in Israel wasn't aware that this was happening".

Local media this week reported comments from a Downing Street spokesman who said Patel had discussed the possibility of using British taxpayers' money to support a hospital run by the Israeli military in the Golan Heights for Syrian refugees.

Had she not resigned, Patel would nearly certainly have been fired.

"What is 99% certain is that she knew on the day of the meeting".

Labour has already demanded an investigation by the Prime Minister's standards adviser into Ms Patel's meetings with the Israeli government, claiming they involved four "serious breaches" of the ministerial code.

The Sun newspaper reported yesterday that Patel had also failed to disclose that she had met the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem, in NY and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London.

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