Priti Patel faces the sack over secret trip to Israel: Minis

Priti Patel faces the sack over secret trip to Israel: Minis

Postby admin » Fri Nov 10, 2017 1:14 am

Priti Patel faces the sack over secret trip to Israel: Minister summoned to No 10
by Francis Elliott, Political Editor; Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor; Billy Kenber
The Times
November 8 2017, 5:00pm

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Priti Patel has been accused of breaking the ministerial code over the meetings she held during a “family trip” to Israel. On Monday she was rebuked by Theresa May

Priti Patel is heading to Downing Street after being summoned back from an official trip in Africa.

The international development secretary is expected to be fired for failing to disclose the full details of her contacts with Israeli ministers to Theresa May.

Mrs May’s decision to recall her minister — and Downing Street briefing about her fate — ensured tens of thousands monitored her flight back from Kenya.

Swept by car from the tarmac on arrival shortly after 3pm, Ms Patel’s onward journey from Heathrow to No 10 was shown on live TV in the most public political dismissal to date.

Ms Patel’s fate appeared to be sealed despite claims by some of her allies that No 10 had known about key meetings, including with Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu in August.

The Jewish Chronicle reported that No 10 had been told about that meeting and a second head-to-head between Ms Patel and the Israeli foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem on September 18 in New York.

Downing Street insisted, however, that Mrs May had only learned about Ms Patel’s meeting with Mr Netanyahu last Friday.

It is understood that while Ms Patel did disclose the New York meeting she failed to reveal a meeting with Gilad Erdan, the Israeli security minister, in the Commons on September 7. It is this failure for which she is being asked to account in her showdown with Mrs May today, according to No 10 sources.

Ms Patel cut an isolated figure in the absence of a full-throated public defence from Tory MPs who have previously been supportive. Bernard Jenkin, Tory MP for Harwich and North Essex, said that she had made a “genuine mistake” because of inexperience.

Sir Eric Pickles, the former Tory party chairman and former president of Conservative Friends of Israel, said: “Priti was neighbouring MP, I like her a lot. I like the PM a lot and I hope they can sort this out over a cup of tea.”

Other leading Brexiteers were less generous, however. “She’s bang to rights and she’s been very silly. It’s a shame because she could have had a wonderful career,” said one.

Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, downplayed suggestions that sacking Ms Patel could trigger a rebellion against Mrs May from Leave Tory MPs. “The party is resigned to a ‘no-majority’ government and the bumps that come with that. It just wants to get Brexit done and get after Labour.”

Following the news of Ms Patel’s return, website Flightradar 24 reported on Twitter that more than 22,000 people were tracking the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner’s flight on its site, although it was not absolutely certain Ms Patel was aboard the KQA100 Kenya Airways flight to Heathrow.

Usually flights on the website are tracked by one to 200 people.

Twitter users tweeted their thoughts on the flight tracker, comparing it to watching OJ Simpson attempt to outrun police in his car in 1994, or tracking Santa around the globe on Christmas Eve.

Kenya Airways confirmed the airline does not offer Wi-Fi on any of its London flights, so Ms Patel will have been unaware of the huge interest in her return to the UK.

It also emerged today that Ms Patel visited an Israeli field hospital on the Golan Heights, breaching British government protocol because Israeli sovereignty over the area is not recognised.

Ms Patel provided No 10 with a list of 12 meetings during a “family holiday” to Israel, giving details of what critics say was in fact a freelance foreign policy mission.

Two further meetings emerged overnight, however. She saw Yuval Rotem, an official from the Israeli foreign ministry, for a meeting at the UN general assembly in New York. That one was made known to Mrs May although Ms Patel is said to have failed to have observed proper processes.

It is the meeting with Mr Erdan in September that is understood to have prompted Ms Patel’s recall and likely sacking.

A spokesman for Ms Patel has already said that she has apologised for the handling of the trip to the prime minister.

During her stay in Israel in the summer, in which Ms Patel met senior politicians including Mr Netanyahu, the prime minister, without notifying British diplomats, it is alleged that she travelled to the disputed territory to tour an Israeli army facility which was set up in 2013 and has treated thousands of Syrians, mostly wounded rebel combatants including al-Qaeda militants.

Government procedure is that ministers and senior officials do not visit the Golan and other territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War (the West Bank and East Jerusalem) accompanied by Israeli officials.

Following her trip, Ms Patel recommended that the British government help fund the Israeli army’s medical humanitarian effort.
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