Priti Patel, Britain's Secretary of State for International Development arrives in Downing Street, in London..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON - Britain’s International Development secretary Priti Patel’s political future hung in the balance on Wednesday after The Sun newspaper reported she had held two further undisclosed meetings with Israeli politicians.
As Prime Minister Theresa May heads towards a 2019 EU divorce that will shape Britain’s prosperity for generations, her minority government has stumbled into several controversies that risk shattering her dwindling authority.
Patel apologized to May on Monday for failing to report she had met senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, during a private holiday.
She failed to follow the usual procedures – that ministers inform Britain’s Foreign Office before conducting official business overseas.
Patel said she also regretted suggesting that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was aware of her trip.
On Wednesday, The Sun said Patel had also met with Israel’s Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem in New York and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in London. However, she did not inform May about either meeting despite giving her assurances that there had been no other undisclosed talks.
On September 7, Erdan tweeted that he had met with Patel in London: “Between meetings today, I met with International Development Minister Priti Patel today in parliament by the River Thames. A brave and honest leader who supports Israel with all her heart. We discussed cooperation between our ministries.”
A government source confirmed the meetings took place. The source said that no UK government officials were present for these discussions, and they were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures.
The Jewish Chronicle quoted two "senior sources" on Wednesday saying that Patel was told by Downing Street not to include her meeting with Foreign Ministry director-general Rotem in her list of undisclosed meetings with Israelis so as to avoid embarrassing the UK Foreign Office.
Patel did include the meeting in her statement.
The London-based newspaper also reported that although Patel's meeting with Netanyahu was not authorized in advance, the UK government was informed "within hours." Patel subsequently discussed the meeting and foreign aid plan with May, receiving support but not full authorization from the Foreign Office.
May’s office and Britain’s International Development department did not comment while Patel could not be reached for comment. A Downing Street source said May had not yet spoken to Patel.
Besides her government’s sometimes contradictory signals on Brexit, May has faced criticism from opponents for her handling of other issues: from a deadly apartment block fire in June to a sexual harassment scandal in parliament that prompted Michael Fallon, her loyal defense secretary, to resign on November 2.