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Priti Patel apologises over undisclosed Israeli meetings

From BBC - November 6, 2017

Priti Patel has apologised for holding a series of undisclosed meetings with senior Israeli officials during a private holiday over the summer.

The international development secretary met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior figures without "following the usual procedures".

Ms Patel apologised for not informing the Foreign Office and suggesting Boris Johnson knew in advance of the visit.

Labour said the "shocking" admission warranted a Cabinet Office inquiry.

Downing Street said it welcomed Ms Patel's "clarification" and that at a meeting with Theresa May earlier, the prime minister had "reminded her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code".

The BBC revealed on Friday that Ms Patel held a number of undisclosed meetings with business and political figures during a family holiday in August, including Yair Lapid, the leader of Israel's centrist Yesh Atid party and Jean Judes, executive director of disability charity BIS.

No diplomats were present at the meetings, at which the minister was accompanied by an influential pro-Israeli Conservative peer and lobbyist Lord Polak.

Ms Patel, who is a long-standing supporter of Israel and a former vice-chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel defended her actions, saying she had paid for the holiday herself and while in Israel had taken the opportunity to meet "people and organisations" for the purpose of building links between the two countries.

'Enthusiasm'

She also told the Guardian that "Boris [Johnson] knew about the visit, the point is that the Foreign Office did know about this".

Suggesting that the reaction to her visit had been "extraordinary", she added that it was "for the Foreign Office to go away and explain themselves".

But in a statement "clarifying her position", Ms Patel said she had in fact attended 12 meetings, not just the handful previously reported, and that her earlier comments may have "implied" otherwise.

Among meetings that were not previously reported, she said that she had met Mr Netanyahu to discuss his forthcoming visit to the UK as well as the Israeli "domestic political scene" and UK-Israeli collaboration.

'Mis-read'

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