Priti Patel suggested the UK should give aid to the Israeli military during her previously undisclosed meetings in Israel, it has emerged.
Downing Street officials confirmed on Tuesday that the International Development Secretary discussed the idea of giving the Israel Defence Force British foreign aid to help fund a relief effort for Syrian refugees entering the Israeli occupied Golan Heights.
Ms Patel then asked officials from her department to examine whether public money could support humanitarian operations in occupied parts of the Golan Heights, near the Syrian border.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said “The Secretary of State did discuss potential ways to provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded and who cross into the Golan for aid.
“The Israeli army runs field hospitals there to care for Syrians wounded in the civil war. But there is no change in policy in the area. The UK does not provide any financial support to the Israeli army.”
The disclosure will increase pressure on Ms Patel as the UK does not recognise Israel’s permanent presence in the Golan Heights, after the area was taken from Syria in the 1967 war.
Ms Patel is facing mounting criticism of her trip to Israel, which was made in August as a “family holiday” but involved 12 meetings in 12 days, including one with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Ms Patel did not inform the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that she was attending the meetings, as she was required to do under ministerial protocol.
The meetings were organised by Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president Lord Polak, who accompanied her to all but one of them.
One of the engagements in Israel – with the relief agency IsraAID - was confirmed to have taken place at the Israeli home of Hilda Worth, a Jewish Leadership Council trustee.
On Tuesday Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Conservative Foreign Secretary, said it was "extremely unwise" of Mrs Patel to have held the secret meetings.
He added: "Not only did she not tell the Foreign Office directly, so far as I'm aware the British Embassy in Israel wasn't aware that this was happening. Now that just shouldn't be done... it's not just a question of courtesy."
In Israel, there is also considerable fallout following the Ms Patel’s decision to publish a full list of her meetings in Israel on Monday after initially claiming she had only had two meetings last week.
Sources told the JC that officials at Israeli Foreign Ministry are ‘fuming’ after Ms Patel ignored them and met with Strategic Ministry staff instead.
On Monday Prime Minister Theresa May issued a rebuke to Ms Patel and discussed with her a possible breach of the ministerial code.
The PM only learned of Ms Patel’s meetings on Friday, having spent the previous evening with the Israeli prime minister marking the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.