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UK Development Minister Resigns Over Secret Trip to Israel

UK Development Minister Resigns Over Secret Trip to Israel

Thursday, 9 November, 2017 - 08:30
Britain's International Development Secretary Priti Patel arriving to attend the weekly meeting of the cabinet at Downing Street in central London. DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

UK Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel resigned on Wednesday following her undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials saying her actions had fallen “below the high standards that are expected” of her position.

Patel was summoned back from Kenya by Prime Minister Theresa May after it was revealed that she met senior Israeli officials during a family holiday in the summer, a significant breach of diplomatic protocol.

Under British protocol, a cabinet minister would normally organize meetings through the foreign office and be accompanied by officials, and visits with Israelis would typically be balanced with meetings with Palestinians.

May met with Patel in 10 Downing Street, London and announced she welcomed an apology from Patel for the meetings, which took place in August, but that it was right for her to resign now that further details have come to light.

"As you know, the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together," May said in the letter. "But it must be done formally, and through official channels."

During the visit, Patel met with a dozen politicians and organizations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official. In those meetings, the minister was only accompanied by Stuart Polak, honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel.

She also met with head of Yesh Atid, Yair Lapid, who tweeted about their meeting.

Patel informed the PM that she discussed with Israeli officials requests for aid to be sent to the Israeli army to support humanitarian operations in the Golan Heights, which UK considers as Israeli-occupied territory.

The government stated that May reproached the minister, but reiterated confidence in her.

Patel was sacked a week after Defense Secretary Michael Fallon resigned in a sexual harassment scandal, which also included May's deputy, Damian Green, and Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Trade Mark Garnier. Green denied allegations that "extreme" pornographic material was found on his work computer in 2008.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was also under criticism over comments he made about a British-Iranian woman, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is jailed in Iran over espionage accusations.

The resignation of Patel, who is a strong supporter of the Brexit, will weaken government further more amid negotiations in Brussels concerning this matter.

Minister at the shadow government Jon Trickett said that PM May should explain why she had confidence in Patel after what he felt were breaches of the code.

“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 the letter to May.

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

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