United Kingdom minister apologizes for unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials

United Kingdom minister apologizes for unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials

Paula Sherriff, a Labour MP, said: "Frankly, the Secretary of State should have been here today".

DOWNING Street demanded Priti Patel come clean about any more secret meetings with foreign politicians, as her Cabinet career hung by a thread.

Britain's worldwide development secretary apologized Monday for holding meetings with top Israeli officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without informing the Foreign Office beforehand.

And he added: "The Secretary of State has been clear with Number 10 that on no other occasions while a minister has she organised meetings with foreign government ministers outside the normal channels while on holiday".

"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, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group. The Foreign Office, it said, was "clear that United Kingdom interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit".

Labour had attempted to force Patel to the Commons to face questions from MPs on her conduct.

Patel met Yair Lapid, the leader of one of Israel's main political parties, and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was reportedly discussed, the BBC said.

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"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. "I regret it and apologize 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".

Andy Slaughter, a member of parliament for the main opposition Labour Party and a vice-chair of the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East, told Middle East Eye on Friday that Patel's actions had been "outrageous" and compromised Britain's standing as an "honest broker" in distributing aid around the world.

"No I think exactly what has happened is she's had these meetings, I assume these were not meetings that were originally scheduled, and that having had these meetings she's then informed Boris Johnson and the Foreign Office of what took place in those meetings".

"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.

"The Secretary of State did discuss potential ways to provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded who cross into the Golan for aid", the Prime Minister's official spokesman admitted.

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