Britain’s international development secretary apologized Monday for holding meetings with top Israeli officials, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, without informing the Foreign Office beforehand.
Priti Patel met with Netanyahu, Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and other officials while on a family vacation in Israel in August. UK ministers are required to notify the Foreign Office when conducting official business overseas, but Patel admitted that she failed to do so.
On Friday Patel said that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was aware of the meetings, but on Monday she issued a full apology.
“In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be misread, and how meetings were set up and reported in a way which did not accord with the usual procedures,” she said. “I am sorry for this and I apologize for it.”
Opposition MPs called for her to resign if she breached the ministerial code of conduct, but a spokesperson for UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that May had accepted Patel’s apology and considered the matter closed.
“The Prime Minister welcomes the Secretary of State’s clarification about her trip to Israel and has accepted her apology for her handling of the matter,” the spokesman said. “The Prime Minister met the Secretary of State this morning to remind her of the obligations which exist under the ministerial code.”
Patel met with Netanyahu to discuss “the Israeli domestic political scene,” she said, and to plan his UK visit, which took place last week.
During her trip she also met with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Foreign Ministry Director Yuval Rotem, as well as with business people, charities, and other organizations.
The meeting with Lapid became public knowledge after the Yesh Atid leader tweeted a photo of it.
Great to meet with Priti Patel, UK Secretary of State for International Development, today. A true friend of Israel. pic.twitter.com/8q9qSeX7YZ
— יאיר לפיד (@yairlapid) August 24, 2017
Patel said the meetings were arranged by Lord Stuart Polak, of the Conservative Friends of Israel, who accompanied her in most of the meetings.