Minister faces sack over secret Israeli meetings

Priti Patel with leading pro-Israel lobbyist Sir Stuart Polak (right) during her visit to Israel in August

Priti Patel – the minister in charge of Britain’s overseas aid budget as Secretary of State for International Development – is expected to be sacked within hours after attempting to deceive journalists about a series of secret meetings with Israeli ministers and officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Some of these meetings involved plans to pay Britain’s overseas aid via the Israeli army.

Ms Patel breached diplomatic protocol by visiting Israeli occupied territory on the Golan Heights as a guest of the government. Britain and most other countries do not officially recognised Israeli control of the Golan, and Ms Patel compounded her offence by suggesting on her return to Britain that our government should provide funds for the Israeli field hospital in the occupied territory.

Former British ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer expressed the astonishment of the diplomatic community:
“What did she think she was doing? Incomprehensibly daft.”

It seems that Ms Patel believed both that she herself was untouchable, as the daughter of Ugandan Asian immigrants and a valuable symbol for her pro-Brexit, neo-Thatcherite wing of the Tory party, and that she was effectively representing the Prime Minister’s pro-Israel instincts, against the more evenhanded approach of the Foreign Office.

Stephen Pollard of the Jewish Chronicle has an exclusive story this morning stating that Ms Patel’s ultimate offence – not revealing two of her secret meetings even in her latest press statement after the scandal broke – was actually sanctioned by the Prime Minister’s office. Number 10 (according to Mr Pollard’s sources) asked Ms Patel to keep these meetings secret so as not to embarrass the Foreign Office.

Today’s Tory establishment couldn’t have chosen a better way to mark this week’s centenary of the Balfour Declaration. They have established that 100 years on their party’s relationship with Zionism remains steeped in dishonour.

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