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Britain's aid minister apologises over undisclosed Israel meetings

08 November 2017, 12:42 | Clyde Nash

Priti Patel admits slew of additional meetings during Israel trip - and clarifies just what Boris Johnson knew

Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership

Britain's worldwide development minister Priti Patel discussed with Isreal the idea of giving the country British foreign aid cash, Downing Street confirmed Tuesday. Patel's "startling admissions" raise doubts about whether she can continue in her role - with Labour also demanding that she resign, the Daily Mail says.

Britain's International Development Minister, Priti Patel, on Monday apologised for failing to disclose meetings with senior Israeli officials during a private holiday.

The statement said that Patel and Netanyahu had held an "introductory meeting" in which they had discussed Patel's family background as the daughter of Ugandan Indian migrants growing up in an area of the United Kingdom with a "thriving Jewish community".

While Labour's Chris Bryant told Sky News: "She lied to the country when she suggested last week that she had told the Foreign Secretary before she went - and she hadn't".

Patel's apology statement included a list of people she met, along with a brief summary of the discussions. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case.

She said they had also been attended by Stuart Polak, the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel and an influential pro-Israel lobbyist.

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In her clarification, Patel was forced to admit that she did not just meet with "people and organisations".

Ms Patel apologised for arranging and reporting the meetings "in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures".

Priti Patel met with Netanyahu, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and other officials while on a family vacation in Israel in August. The Foreign Office, it said, was "clear that United Kingdom interests were not damaged or affected by the meetings on this visit". "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it", Patel said in her apology statement.

Equally revealing is the revelation that at yesterday's Downing Street lobby briefing, the prime minister's spokesman confirmed that Prime Minister Theresa May did not know about any of the meetings until last Friday, some three months after they took place and one day after the prime minister held her own meeting with Netanyahu.

It emerged that Ms Patel tasked DFID officials to look at sending aid cash to the Israeli Army after holding talks with PM Benjamin Netanyahu during a holiday in the country. "She's toast." Patel held meetings with Israeli ministers, charities and non-governmental organizations during her trip to Israel.

The Netanyahu meeting included "prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the United Kingdom on development and humanitarian issues", Israel-based newspaper Haaretz reports, noting that no minutes were kept.



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