British minister apologizes for not disclosing meetings with officials in Israel

Posted November 08, 2017

While Patel's secret meeting with the Israeli's is seen by many as a clear breach of the ministerial code of conduct, some have pointed to the paralysis within May's government in punishing this kind of rogue behaviour, especially when it comes to UK's relations with Israel.

Priti Patel, the worldwide development secretary, also said that the meeting and others with senior Israeli officials had been conducted without the knowledge of the British Foreign Office and apologised for failing to follow "usual procedures". "It is hard to escape the conclusion that had she been a more expendable minister - Mark Garnier, for instance - or if the prime minister was in a position of strength, Patel would have faced a Cabinet Office inquiry at best, and her P45 at worst".

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

Asked about Patel's reported wish to use British aid money to help fund Israeli army activity, Burt said: "Because we regard Golan Heights as occupied territory and because we cannot support Israeli occupation of it, or give them any support, the answer to her query was "no".

The minister, who has been under fire for not disclosing the trip earlier this summer, said the visit was a "family holiday, paid for myself" and the meetings - with a range of politicians, businesses, tech startups and NGOs - were arranged while away. [Patel] would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

When asked whether the PM had been made aware of anything else that was discussed that could constitute a change of policy, Number 10 replied: "What I am clear on is she set out the people she met and from looking at the list of people it is quite clear the different areas they cover".

Ms Patel, MP for Witham in Essex, said she was proud of the role which Britain had played in "helping to make a homeland for the Jewish people" and said that the Balfour centenary should be celebrated with pride.

Patil said she had met with prominent Israeli figures, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem, and opposition leader Yair Lapid.

She also held several meetings with representatives of charities and NGOs involved in aid and humanitarian work. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.

They also discussed the Israeli domestic political scene, India, Netanyahu's then-forthcoming visit to London to mark the centenary last week of the Balfour declaration, and "prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the United Kingdom on development and humanitarian issues".

"Patel has a history of showing favouritism to Israel and is suspected to cut or divert the essential aid that the United Kingdom sends to the Palestine Authority", Slaughter told MEE.

Lord Ricketts, former head of the Diplomatic Service, told BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme: "I can't think of a precedent where a senior minister visits a country, has an extensive programme like this without the Foreign Office, the foreign secretary or even the ambassador in the country knowing about it".

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was under way".

He alleged Ms Patel broke four grounds of the code - openness, collective responsibility, honesty and performing only those duties allocated to them by the PM.