British cabinet minister resigns over unauthorized talks with top Israelis

Thursday, 09 Nov, 2017

The UK's global development secretary, Priti Patel, has resigned after it was revealed she held secret meetings with Israeli officials during what she said was a family holiday to Israel. United Kingdom ministers are required to notify the Foreign Office when conducting official business overseas, but Patel admitted that she failed to do so.

In reply, May said in a letter to her: "Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have chose to resign".

Labour had posed an urgent question over Ms Patel's meetings in Israel, held while she is said to have been on a family holiday.

"I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government for what has happened and offer my resignation", she added.

Later, Ms Patel insists the allegation that she kept the Foreign Office in the dark is false, telling a reporter: "Boris [Johnson] knew about the visit".

She then held two additional meetings, one in the United Kingdom and one in the USA, following her return from Israel.

The fresh revelations are likely to pile extra pressure on Theresa May to sack the International Development Secretary, who is believed to have also met the Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in NY on September 18.

On 18 September, while in New York, Patel met Yuval Rotem, an official from the Israeli foreign ministry.

Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organise meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and meetings with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians. "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".

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The JC claimed to have been told by two separate sources that Number 10 instructed Ms Patel not to include these two meetings in her original release.

In a clarification, on Monday she said that "this was not the case" and that he "did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

Ms Patel was also reported to have visited the Golan Heights, territory disputed between Israel and Syria, which British officials tend to avoid.

Mr Burt faced calls of "Where is she?" from the opposition benches when he rose to respond on Ms Patel's behalf.

Patel's meetings in Israel were arranged by Tory peer Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

The ministerial code that governs the behavior of members of the British government makes no specific mention of secret meetings with foreign heads of government, but it does urge ministers to take "special care" when talking about issues "which are the responsibility of other ministers".

Ms Patel is given a face-to-face reprimand by the Prime Minister and reminded about her "responsibilities under the ministerial code".

Patel only made May aware of the meetings on Friday, more than two months after they took place, when reports began to emerge of talks she held with a politician and a disability charity.