Downing Street 'knew about Priti Patel's secret Israel meetings'

PRITIPATEL

British Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel talks on a mobile phone in a vehicle as she arrives at Downing Street on November 8, 2017, after being summoned back to London by the prime minister. She did not volunteer this information in the meetings with Downing Street on Monday.

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

Ms Patel's early return to the United Kingdom follows the disclosure that she met Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in NY on September 18.

In her letter to Theresa May, Ms Patel said: "While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

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".

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On 7 September, Patel met with Gilad Erdan in London, Israel's strategic affairs minister whose purview includes fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

She was also rebuked by No 10 after giving the false impression in an interview with the Guardian that foreign secretary Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office knew about the meetings.

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

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted about a meeting he had with Patel in the British parliament on September 7, describing it as "wonderful". "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it". I am publishing a list of who I met.‎ The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway‎. "The foreign secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

On Tuesday, May's spokesman told reporters that on returning from her vacation, Patel had asked her officials whether British aid money could be given to support the Israeli army's relief work in the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

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Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organise meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and meetings with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians.

Patel has faced criticism and calls for her to resign or be sacked over the meetings.

Ms Patel is given a face-to-face reprimand by the Prime Minister and reminded about her "responsibilities under the ministerial code".

However, earlier this week, The Jewish Chronicle reported that two different sources confirmed to them that Patel had disclosed the meetings but was told not to declare them as they would embarrass the Foreign Office.

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.

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