Priti Patel avoids Commons questions on Israel meetings due to Africa trip

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Priti Patel resigned as United Kingdom global development secretary over talks with the Israeli government behind Prime Minister Theresa May's back after more revelations of undisclosed visits came to light. In the latest crisis for Britain's beleaguered government, the worldwide development secretary Priti Patel cut short a trip to Africa, flying back to London after Prime Minister Theresa May ordered her to return.

"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.

"I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government for what has happened and offer my resignation", Patel said in a letter.

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.

In a week of crises, her foreign minister, Boris Johnson, on Tuesday was pressed to apologize over remarks he made about a jailed aid worker in Iran, which critics said could prompt the Islamic Republic to hand her a longer jail term.

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

According to the Press Association, Downing Street was told about the NY breakfast with Rotem when Patel revealed the details of her trip to Israel, but only learnt on Tuesday about the meeting in Parliament with Erdan.

Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organise meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and visits with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians. "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".


Number 10 confirmed that 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 Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

He said Foreign Office officials in Israel had only become aware of her visit on August 24, after she was already in the country.

Patel's meetings with Israeli officials, which May's office said they were not aware of, and a reported visit to an Israeli army field hospital in the Golan Heights, have increased the pressure on the prime minister, who depends on a Northern Irish party in parliament to pass legislation.

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

Patel is the second cabinet minister to quit May's government a week after Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary over allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior on November 1.

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.

No 10 denies it instructed Ms Patel not to publicise the September meeting with Yuval Rotem, the diplomat, to avoid embarrassing the Foreign Office, but accepts it knew about it.

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