British aid minister resigns over undisclosed meetings in Israel

After meeting Theresa May, the prime minister's office released Patel's resignation letter in which she apologized for causing "a distraction" from the work of government.

Britain's Employment Minister Priti Patel (photo credit: REUTERS/TOBY MELVILLE)
Britain's Employment Minister Priti Patel
British International Development Secretary Priti Patel resigned on Wednesday night following a political storm over secret meetings she held with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on vacation in Israel in August.
“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what happened and offer my resignation,” Patel wrote in a letter she addressed to British Prime Minister Theresa May following a meeting in Downing Street.
“In recent days there have been a number of reports about my actions, and I am sorry that these have served as a distraction from the work of the Department for International Development and the government as a whole,” she went on to explain.
“As you know from our discussions, I accept that in meeting with organizations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel my actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state. 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.”
May accepted Patel’s resignation, explaining that while Israel and Great Britain were close allies, cooperation between the two countries had to be done through official channels.
Initially, May had met with Patel and accepted her apology, but since then it was understood that Patel had two other unreported meetings beyond what she had disclosed in a public letter on the matter.
“Now that further details have come to light, it is right that you have decided to resign and adhere to the high standard of transparency and openness that you had advocated,” May wrote, adding that Patel could be proud of her achievements during her year in office.
Patel’s story drew enormous publicity in Great Britain, particularly when May asked her to return from a trip to Africa on Wednesday. British news channels and Twitter followed the flight of her plane back to London, and showed her arrival at the airport and subsequent trip to Downing Street.
The Jewish Chronicle reported that May had actually asked Patel not to include a second meeting she held with Foreign Ministry director-general Yuval Rotem in New York on September 18, when she listed meetings she had with Israelis in August.
In an apology letter published on Monday, Patel said she had told the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of her visit while in Israel, and that the meetings were arranged with Conservative Peer Lord Polak, who attended many of them.
The meetings focused on increasing the humanitarian and development partnership between Israel and the UK.
The list of people and organizations Patel met with in Israel, aside from Netanyahu and Rotem, includes: Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Yesh Atid party head MK Yair Lapid, Haim Taib of the Mitrelli Group, IsraAid, Save a Child’s Heart, Wheelchairs of Hope and the Galilee International Management Institute.
She attended a dinner with Aliza Inbal of Pears Program for Global Innovation, which included Sivan Ya’ari of Innovation Africa, Glenn Yago of the Milken Institute, Yosef Abramowitz of Energiya Global Capital and Mandie Winston of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
Patel also met with Israeli start ups focused on Africa including Vital Capital, MobileODT, Equatel Health, Cassit Orthopedics, Ltd, NUFiltration Ltd, and Fair Planet.