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Priti Patel forced to apologise after meeting Netanyahu in Israel

International Development Secretary also admits having 12 meetings in Israel after initially only admitting two

    (Getty)

    International Development Secretary Priti Patel has issued an apology for holding undisclosed meetings in Israel – and for claiming Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about the visit in advance.

    Ms Patel had travelled to Israel on a family holiday she paid for herself - but it has emerged she met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Yuval Rotem and opposition leader Yair Lapid among others.

    The 12 meetings were organised by Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president Lord Polak, who accompanied her to all but one meeting.

    After details of the meetings first emerged last week, Ms Patel told the Guardian Mr Johnson “knew about the trip”. She also insisted there had only been two meetings on her visit to Israel "as far as I am concerned."

    But in a clarification today she said that “this was not the case” and that he “did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it”.

    Officials said Ms Patel “regrets the lack of precision in the wording she used in these statements, and is taking this opportunity to clarify the position”.

    During the holiday in August Ms Patel met politicians, businesses, tech start-ups, and humanitarian NGOs to discuss the Israeli approach to technology and development.

    Lord Polak is said to have been at all the meetings with the exception of a meeting with Dr Aliza Inbal, from the Pears Programme for Global Innovation.

    On her return from Israel, Ms Patel commissioned departmental work on humanitarian and development partnership between Israel and the UK, and on disability.

    In her statement, Ms Patel said: “This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for myself.

    “While away I had the opportunity to meet a number of people and organisations. I am publishing a list of who I met.‎ The Foreign and Commonwealth Office was aware of my visit while it was underway‎.

    “In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures. I am sorry for this and I apologise for it.

    “My first and only aim as the Secretary of State for International Development is to put the interests of British taxpayers and the world’s poor at the front of our development work.”

    Kate Osamor, Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, said Ms Patel's statement was "a desperate last-ditch attempt to save her job". 

    Ms Osamor added: “Not only does it look like she might have breached the ministerial code, she has now been caught misleading the British public. If she doesn't now resign, then Theresa May must immediately refer the issue to the Cabinet Office for a full investigation."

     

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