Downing Street 'knew about Priti Patel's secret Israel meetings'


A Downing Street spokesperson said: 'It is not true that the Prime Minister knew about the International Development Secretary's meeting with PM Netanyahu before Friday November 3.

A senior British minister on Monday admitted that she held a previously undisclosed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while on holiday in Israel in August.

"I then discovered this morning that Number 10 had been told by Ms Patel about her meeting with Israeli foreign office official Yuval Rotem in NY and had specifically asked her not to include it".

"Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have chose to resign and adhere to the high standards of transparency and openness that you have advocated".

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.

"But what I then found out Priti Patel mentioned that meeting and that Number 10 told her not to put that meeting on the list because it would embarrass the Foreign Office".

During her trip she also met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Foreign Ministry Director Yuval Rotem, as well as with business people, charities, and other organizations.

According to the Press Association, Downing Street was told about the NY breakfast with Rotem when Patel revealed the details of her trip to Israel, but only learnt on Tuesday about the meeting in Parliament with Erdan.

The imminent sacking of cabinet minister Priti Patel took another turn this morning when a journalist revealed Theresa May's office did know about her meetings in Israel. "The foreign secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it".

Patel, a Brexit campaigner who is popular in the ruling Conservative Party, had to abandon a trip to Africa earlier on Wednesday after being summoned by May to answer questions on more unsanctioned meetings that breached diplomatic protocol.

The International Development Secretary, who is facing mounting criticism, was "in the air" on her way to Africa, Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt told the Commons, adding that she "did not suddenly contrive" the visit in order to avoid facing MPs.

"What is 99% certain is that she knew on the day of the meeting".

In addition, the newspaper reported that although Patel's meeting with Netanyahu was not authorised in advance, the UK Government was made aware of it within hours.

However the Prime Minister's official spokesman was unable to say whether she had explained when she met Mrs May that the scheme would have involved supplying funding to the Israeli army.

The Sun newspaper reported yesterday that Patel had also failed to disclose that she had met the director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem, in NY and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London.