Boris Johnson snubs Conservative Friends of Israel invitation in wake of Priti Patel affair

The Foreign Secretary had been asked to give the keynote speech at the organisation's annual business lunch


Boris Johnson has turned down an invitation to this year’s Conservative Friends of Israel annual business lunch.

The Foreign Secretary had been asked to give the keynote speech at the event.

His decision not to attend comes in the wake of last week’s scandal involving former International Development Minister Priti Patel who resigned over secret meetings in Israel organised by CFI’s honorary president Lord Polak.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the JC on Tuesday that Mr Johnson – who is currently involved in a diplomatic crisis over the imprisonment of a British mother in  Iran - would not be going to the event next month.

“I am not aware of any plans for the Foreign Secretary’s to attend this lunch,“ the spokesman said.

A senior CFI parliamentary figure confirmed that Mr Johnson had been “this year’s choice” to give the keynote speech.

The annual CFI lunch in central London is the influential lobby group’s most prestigious event of the year.
Last year’s keynote speech was given by Prime Minister Theresa May who praised the economic ties between the UK and Israel and called for closer co-operation on healthcare, cyber security and counter-terrorism efforts.

The Prime Minister addressed an audience of 800 at the event in Westminster, which included more than 200 Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers, and Mark Regev, Israel's ambassador to Britain.

But there are fears that the Priti Patel scandal will result in a  smaller turn-out at this year’s lunch.

The involvement of CFI’s honorary president Lord Polak in the Patel affair has led to worries that the image of the organisation has been damaged.

One leading Tory MP said he feared CFI’s “reputation and good work” had been undermined by the scandal, which saw Lord Polak arrange meetings, including one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for Ms Patel during her visit to Israel.

One senior figure within Britain’s Jewish community branded Lord Polak as ‘toxic’ following last week’s resignation of Ms Patel.

Mr Johnson was yesterday summoned to the House of Commons to answer questions about his handling of the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British mother jailed in Iran.

Ten days ago he wrongly claimed Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in the country when she was detained in April last year even though she, her family and employer, say she was on holiday there.

She had been jailed for five years on allegations of attempting to topple the regime - but faces a possible extension of her sentence as a result of Mr Johnson’s false claim.

Mr Johnson apologised in the Commons’ for any distress his comment had caused Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family.

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