Foreign Office ‘blindsided’ by Priti Patel’s Israeli meetings
International Development Secretary accused of breaking ministerial code
International Development Secretary Priti Patel and a pro-Israeli Conservative lobbyist held undisclosed meetings in Israel with a leading politician without informing UK officials, it has emerged.
Ministers, by convention, should tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business overseas, The Guardian reports.
According to the BBC, the revelation of the meetings - which took place over two days in August while Patel was on holiday in Israel - has left the British Consulate in Jerusalem feeling “blindsided” and “slightly bruised”.
Patel and Lord Polak, the honorary president of the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, met with Yair Lapid, the leader of one of Israel’s main political parties. They also made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was reportedly discussed, the BBC says.
“The fear among some Tory MPs is that Ms Patel also used the trip to discuss reducing her department’s support for Palestinian groups,” the BBC says. The Department for International Development is responsible for most of the £68m a year Britain uses to support the Palestinian territories.
The Daily Telegraph says Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about Patel’s foreign holiday and that she notified him of the meetings on her return. Patel insists the trip had nothing to do with foreign policy. Downing Street says she will not be investigated.
Polak told the BBC that he happened to be on holiday at the same time as Patel by chance, and that the meetings they held with Lapid were merely a case of friends chatting over coffee.