UK Cabinet minister quits over Israel meetings

Priti Patel Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street in London

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.

Before the extra meetings were revealed, Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister continued to have confidence in Patel, who is now in Africa with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, after giving her a dressing down on Monday over her trip to Israel.

In her resignation, Ms Patel apologised and said her actions "fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated".

Ms May reportedly responded in another letter to say she believed that Ms Patel has made the "right" decision.

"Far from being unaware, Number 10 knew in full about her meeting with Mr Netanyahu, because Ms Patel had discussed it with the Prime Minister in September, prior to the UN General Assembly".

After a hastily arranged meeting not long after Patel landed in London, May's office released her minister's letter of resignation, in which Patel said her conduct in Israel had fallen "below the high standards" required of her post.

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In a lengthy statement, Patel admitted her mistake.

The Jewish Chronicle article also states that the Prime Minister spoke with Ms Patel ahead of the UN General Assembly last month where they spoke of the meeting with Mr Netanyahu, and discussed details to give United Kingdom aid to humanitarian projects run by the Israel.

Was Priti Patel acting with your authorisation in any of the meetings she held during her visit to Israel?

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted about a meeting he had with Patel in the British parliament on September 7, describing it as "wonderful". "I am sorry for this and I apologize for it".

Number 10 confirmed that Ms Patel had discussed the possibility of United Kingdom aid being used to support medical assistance for refugees from the Syrian civil war arriving in the Golan Heights.

The BBC also reports that Ms Patel was accompanied by Lord Polak, president of Conservative Friends of Israel, (CFI), which has close links with wealthy Tory donors.

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Had she not resigned, Patel would nearly certainly have been fired.

No British officials were present and like her meetings in Israel, she did not report them to the Foreign Office or Government in the usual way.

In her statement, Patel explained, her quoted remarks may have given the impression that she had informed the foreign secretary about the visit beforehand.

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

Labour has already demanded an investigation into Patel's meetings with the Israeli government, claiming they involved four "serious breaches" of the ministerial code.

However, earlier this week, The Jewish Chronicle reported that two different sources confirmed to them that Patel had disclosed the meetings but was told not to declare them as they would embarrass the Foreign Office.

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