UK aid minister forced to resign over “unauthorized” meetings with Israeli officials

In the anti-Semitic UK and Europe, talk to Israel and you lose your job.

In August, Priti Patel met with Netanyahu, 11 others during family trip to Jewish state without notifying Downing Street. May says UK-Israel cooperation ‘must be done formally’.

Britain’s aid minister Priti Patel was forced to resign on Wednesday for holding a series of unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials over the summer, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, apologizing for “what has happened.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May summoned International Development Secretary Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians, in which she reportedly raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army for medical help for Syrian refugees.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the Government for what has happened and offer my resignation,” she wrote in a letter to May.

“As you know from our discussion I accept that in meeting with organizations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel my actions fell below the high standards that are expected,” she wrote. “While my actions were meant with the best of intentions, my actions also fell below the standards of transparency and openness that I have promoted and advocated.”

Patel wrote in her letter that there had been a “number of reports about my actions and I am sorry that these have served as a distraction.”

May accepted Patel’s resignation, replying in a letter that “the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together. But that must be done formally.”

Patel had apologized on Monday for holding 12 separate meetings during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

After a public reprimand from the prime minister, Patel left the UK on Tuesday for a three-day trip to Uganda, but returned on Wednesday at May’s request.

In Israel, opposition leader Isaac Herzog called Patel’s resignation a “great loss” for both Israel and Britain.

“She is a wonderful political leader who served the people with passion and honor,” Herzog told the Times of Israel on the sidelines of an event held by the British, Israel and Commonwealth Association marking the Balfour Declaration centenary. “I had the great pleasure of meeting her on many occasions and saw her dedication. It is a great loss for Israel and also for the people of the UK.”

British Ambassador to Israel David Quarry, at the same event, declined to comment on the resignation.

Sir Eric Pickles, a former minister, ex-chairman of the governing Conservative Party and the current head of Conservative Friends of Israel, suggested the meetings would not have caused such a stir if a country other than Israel had been involved. “I cannot imagine there would be this kind of fuss if she had met various people of influence in Belgium, if that is not a contradiction in terms,” said Pickles.

A spokesperson for Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told The Times of Israel that there was nothing untoward about a September meeting between Patel and Erdan in the UK that also contributed to her resignation.

“It was organized via the Israeli embassy in the UK who made all the necessary arrangements. The deputy Israeli ambassador to the UK was also in the meeting,” he said.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed it was aware of that London meeting and that the deputy ambassador attended. It said the arrangements were made directly with Patel and not via the UK Foreign Ministry.

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