British aid minister Patel resigns in new test for PM May

Theresa May Announces A General Election

The beleaguered UK International Development Secretary Priti Patel appeared to be on the brink of departure from the cabinet this morning following revelations of more undisclosed meetings with senior Israeli officials.

Ms Patel, a Brexit campaigner who was popular in Ms May's Government, headed back to London yesterday after cancelling a planned trip to Africa to respond to the reports that she failed to declare meetings with Israeli officials in a breach of diplomatic protocol.

"I am publishing a list of who I met.‎ The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway", Patel said in her apology.

The PM said her decision was "right" as "further details have come to light".

But fresh fresh details suggest that Number 10 knew about meetings held with the Israel foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in NY in September but asked Ms Patel to keep quiet to avoid embarrassing the Foreign Office.

The minister 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.

She then held two additional meetings, one in the United Kingdom and one in the U.S., following her return from Israel.

Ms Patel's early return to the United Kingdom followed the disclosure that she met Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in NY on September 18. She adds: "I am sorry for this and I apologise for it".

He told James O'Brien that there were some odd questions about the whole story: "The idea that Number 10 was unaware of some of the ideas that Priti Patel was discussing to do with sharing British aid with Israel was nonsense, because I had been told about it early last week, long before the story broke, and Number 10 had signed off on it".

On returning from Israel, Ms Patel commissioned work by DfID on disability, humanitarian and development partnerships between Israel and the UK.

He said Foreign Office officials in Israel had only become aware of her visit on August 24, after she was already in the country.

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.

Patel has faced criticism and calls for her to resign or be sacked over the meetings.

Priti Patel wanted to send British aid money to support an Israeli army programme treating wounded Syrian jihadists, including al-Qaeda fighters, in the occupied Golan Heights.

Patel's meetings in Israel were arranged by Tory peer Lord Polak, honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel.

Patel has been under pressure since it was revealed that she held 12 meetings with Israeli groups and officials, including Netanyahu, during a vacation in Israel in August - and that she hadn't told May or colleagues about it.

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.

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