Priti Patel ‘Clinging On’ After Fresh Revelations About Unauthorised Contact With Israeli Ministers

Priti Patel is thought to be clinging on to her Cabinet position after it emerged she held two further unauthorised meetings with Israeli ministers without telling Downing Street. The fresh revelations are likely to pile extra pressure on Theresa May to sack the International Development Secretary, who is believed to have also met the Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on September 18. The news comes just days after the Tory MP admitted to holding 12 meetings with Israeli political figures - including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - while on a “family holiday” in the country in August. According to the Press Association, Downing Street was told about the New York 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. 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. She was accompanied at all the meetings bar one in Israel by honorary president of the Conservative Friends for Israel lobbying group Lord Polak. Labour has already demanded an investigation into Patel’s meetings with the Israeli government, claiming they involved four “serious breaches” of the ministerial code. Before the extra meetings were revealed, Downing Street insisted the Prime Minister continued to have confidence in Patel, who is currently in Africa with International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, after giving her a dressing down on Monday over her trip to Israel. Number 10 confirmed that Patel had discussed the possibility of UK aid being used to support medical assistance for refugees from the Syrian civil war arriving in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. However the May’s official spokesman was unable to say whether she had explained when she met the Tory leader that the scheme would have involved supplying funding to the Israeli army. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett said she should either call in her independent adviser on ministerial standards, Sir Alex Allen, or “state publicly and explain your full reasons for why Priti Patel retains your confidence despite clear breaches of the ministerial code”. Trickett said there were “strong grounds” to believe that Patel had broken the code’s requirements for openness, collective responsibility, honesty and performing only those duties allocated to them by the PM. Labour sought to force Patel to explain herself in the Commons by tabling an urgent question, but it was left to Middle East Minister Alistair Burt to answer as MPs were told she had left on the trip to Africa. He said Foreign Office officials in Israel had only become aware of her visit on August 24, after she was already in the country. The Prime Minister was forced to remind Patel of her obligations as a minister after it emerged that she took time out from a family holiday to meet Netanyahu, other politicians, businesses and charities during a visit to Israel between August 13 and 25. The meetings were arranged by Lord Polak. On returning from her trip, Patel commissioned Department for International Development (DfID) work on disability, humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK. Patel only made May aware of the meetings on Friday, more than two months after they took place, when reports began to emerge of talks she held with a politician and a disability charity. The minister has apologised and admitted a “lack of precision” for suggesting last week that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about the trip, and that only two meetings had taken place. May also took steps to tighten the ministerial code, asking Whitehall’s top civil servant, Sir Jeremy Heywood, to look at how it can be clarified.