Priti Patel, previously ousted over Israel meetings, named UK home secretary

Priti Patel, previously ousted over Israel meetings, named UK home secretary

Dominic Raab to serve as new foreign secretary, Sajid Javid appointed chancellor of the exchequer, as Boris Johnson clears house on his first day as prime minister

Conservative lawmaker Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street, London, July 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Conservative lawmaker Priti Patel arrives at 10 Downing Street, London, July 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Priti Patel, who resigned as UK aid minister in 2017 over unauthorized meetings with senior Israeli officials, was named as home secretary by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday.

Patel quit in November 2017 after it emerged that she held a series of meeting with Israeli leaders — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — about allocating aid to the Israeli army’s Syrian relief efforts, without properly informing the government.

Patel had apologized for holding 12 separate meetings during a family holiday to Israel in August of that year without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

The Jewish Chronicle reported at the time that Patel had informed 10 Downing Street of the meetings and had been advised to keep a sit-down with Israeli Foreign Ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York off the list of meetings she disclosed to save face for the Foreign Office. Downing Street denied the claims as “categorically untrue.”

Conservative lawmaker Dominic Raab arrives at 10 Downing Street, London, July 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Dominic Raab, who was named by Johnson on Wednesday as the UK’s new foreign secretary — the country’s top diplomat — resigned as Brexit minister in Theresa May’s government last year, saying the divorce deal she struck with Brussels offered too many compromises.

A 45-year-old graduate of both Oxford and Cambridge and the son of a Jewish Czech father who fled the Nazis, Raab reportedly spent the summer of 1998 at a university near Ramallah and became involved early on in the Arab-Israeli conflict, working with a former Palestinian negotiator of the Oslo peace process in the West Bank.

Raab went viral on social media for admitting at a conference that he “hadn’t quite understood” the importance of the cross-Channel port in Dover to the UK economy. Dover handled 17 percent of Britain’s entire international trade last year, a figure that threatens to plummet under a no-deal Brexit scenario Raab had said he does not much fear. Making matters worse, Raab appeared to suggest that he had only recently discovered this “peculiar geographic economic entity” of his country.

Raab is replacing Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s rival in the leadership race, who said he had “kindly” been offered a different cabinet role, Sky News reported, but decided to serve on the backbenches, from where the prime minister “will have my full support.”

Sajid Javid was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, responsible for spending and economic policy, vacating the home secretary role for Patel.

Javid made a three-day trip to Israel and the West Bank earlier this month, including a rare visit to Jerusalem’s Western Wall and Temple Mount.

The minister, who comes from a Muslim family, donned a traditional Jewish skullcap as he toured the Western Wall holy site and placed a note between the stones of the ancient retaining wall.

Britain’s Home Secretary Sajid Javid, center, visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem, July 1, 2019. (Courtesy The Western Wall Heritage Foundations)

He recalled that his father believed deeply in Jewish-Muslim coexistence. “We love Jewish heritage very much and appreciate it,” the then-home secretary said during the private visit.

Javid also visited and prayed at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, and the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

During his time as home secretary, Javid proscribed Hezbollah’s political wing as a terrorist organization, and slammed Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for photos of him holding a wreath during a 2014 visit to the graves of Palestinian terrorists.

Johnson fired several members of May’s cabinet on Wednesday, but Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is keeping his job in the government shakeup.

Britain’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures as he speaks outside 10 Downing Street, London, July 24, 2019 (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

Michael Gove, who ran the 2016 campaign to leave the EU alongside Johnson before the pair fell out, was named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a powerful cabinet post with no specific portfolio.

Ben Wallace, a former security minister, was appointed defense secretary.

May’s secretaries in defense, business, education, transport, local government and international trade have all announced they are leaving government. That came hours after Treasury chief Philip Hammond, Justice Secretary David Gauke, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, resigned.

Some of those leaving had said they would rather go than serve under Johnson, who wants to leave the European Union even if no Brexit agreement is in place to ease the transition.

Johnson insists the country will leave the EU by Oct. 31 — “do or die.”

Agencies contributed to this report.

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