U.K. Cabinet Minister Under Fire Over Secret Israel Meetings

LONDON (AP) -
10 Downing Street (Pixabay)

Britain’s international development secretary cut short a trip to Africa Wednesday amid demands she be fired over unauthorized meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians.

Britain’s Press Association news agency and other media reported that Priti Patel was flying back to London after Prime Minister Theresa May ordered her to return. She had been due to attend events in Uganda.

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 the country in August — and that she hadn’t told the prime minister or colleagues about it.

Patel later discussed with her department the possibility of British aid being given to the Israeli army to support medical assistance for refugees from the Syrian civil war arriving in the Golan Heights.

Haaretz reported Wednesday that Patel visited an IDF military field hospital in the Golan Heights during her August trip.

Patel’s situation has been made worse by her contradictory statements about the meetings.

When news broke about the August trip, Patel insisted that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson “knew about the visit.” Her department was later forced to clarify the statement, saying “the foreign secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it.”

Patel apologized, saying the meetings “did not accord with the usual procedures.”

It has since emerged that she also met in September with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and a foreign ministry official, without any other British officials present.

If May fires Patel, she will be the second member of the increasingly unstable Cabinet to leave their job in a week.