I don't know what Priti Patel was thinking, admits Iain Duncan Smith

Priti Patel: Israel and Britain can extend and improve their partnership
Priti Patel admits slew of additional meetings during Israel trip - and clarifies just what Boris Johnson knew

08 November, 2017

The International Development Secretary is under mounting pressure to explain her actions after it was revealed she held a series of meetings with Israeli government ministers without informing Downing Street.

Yesterday, Patel was forced to make a U-turn, while coming clean about her secret trip to Israel. "There is no United Kingdom financial support for the Israeli army", a Downing Street spokesperson said after it emerged that in the wake of her visit in August, Patel had discussed potentially providing some of Britain's aid money to Israel's armed forces which run field hospitals in the Golan Heights area.

Priti Patel met with Netanyahu, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and other officials while on a family vacation in Israel in August.

Patel apologized for failing to comply with the usual procedures that oblige ministers to inform the British Foreign Office before doing official business overseas and said she regretted her statement that Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was aware of the visit in advance.

The revelations are highly embarrassing for Mrs May who was clueless about the meetings held between Ms Patel and Mr Netanyahu when the Israeli PM visted Downing Street last week. Patel also indicated on Friday that all meetings she held during her holiday have subsequently been made public.

Alistair Burt, a Foreign Office minister, admitted she did not meet "anyone representing Palestinian interests" - despite 12 meetings with Israeli groups. I am publishing a list of who I met.‎ The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway‎. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case. "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it", Patel said in her apology statement.

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However Downing Street said that she will not face an official inquiry into her failure to disclose the meetings. The Telegraph also reported that Patel had suggested to Netanyahu that the United Kingdom should give aid to the Israeli army.

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".

The Secretary of State said she had seen for herself the work of Jewish charities in Israel, and said she was "struck by the achievements of the state of Israel".

Opposition MPs called for her to resign if she breached the ministerial code of conduct, but a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that she had accepted Patel's apology and considered the matter closed.

On Monday, Ms Patel issued a statement to say her Tel Aviv meetings were to discuss "prospects for closer collaboration between Israel and the United Kingdom on development and humanitarian issues".

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