Priti Patel blasted after claims she failed to tell Foreign Office of meeting with top Israeli figures

Posted On: 
3rd November 2017

Priti Patel has sparked anger within the Tory party after it was reported she held a series of meetings with senior Israeli figures without telling the UK foreign office.

Priti Patel is said to have been on holiday while conducting 'official business'
PA Images

The BBC reports that the International Development Secretary met with high-ranking politicians in the region while accompanied by a “powerful pro-Israeli Conservative lobbyist”, but failed to observe standard protocol by keeping Britain aware of her movements.

While the meetings are said to have taken place over two days in August while Ms Patel was on holiday in Israel, ministers are by convention expected to tell the Foreign Office when they are conducting official business abroad.

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The pro-Israel frontbencher has since sparked fury among Conservative colleagues, with claims she was trying to conduct her own “freelance foreign policy”.

Others claim Ms Patel - who is said to have been accompanied by honorary president of Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI), Lord Polak - was seeking to win over wealthy pro-Israel Conservative donors who could finance a future Tory leadership campaign.

The minister is reported to have met with the leader of one of Israel's main political parties and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was discussed.

Meanwhile, one source told the broadcaster that at least one of the meetings was prompted by a suggestion from the Israeli ambassador to London, despite British diplomats having been kept in the dark over the trip.

One minister told the BBC: "This is outrageous. She is a Cabinet minister. She just cannot do this. This is about donors and influence."

Another former minister said: "What does it say to the rest of the Middle East if a senior Cabinet minister in charge of Britain's huge aid budget disappears for 48 hours from a family holiday in Israel and is under the wing of a pro-Israeli lobbyist?"

The move comes as Theresa May hosts Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in London to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, when Britain laid out plans for the creation of a Jewish state.

A senior Downing Street source denied Ms Patel had over-stepped the mark, claiming the visit was a self-funded, private holiday.

One minister said: "Yes, we did not know about the trip. We were unsighted on it."

However another source said the British consulate in Jerusalem was "blindsided" and felt "slightly bruised".

A third Foreign Office source said: "We didn't know and would have expected to know, given the meetings she had."