This article titled “Priti Patel wanted to send aid money to Israeli army, No 10 confirms” was written by Rajeev Syal and Peter Walker, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 7th November 2017 17.56 Asia/Kolkata
Priti Patel wanted to send aid money to the Israeli army after conducting a string of secret meetings with Israeli figures including Benjamin Netanyahu, Downing Street has confirmed.
The international development secretary asked officials from her department to examine whether public money could support humanitarian operations in occupied parts of the Golan Heights.
The disclosure adds to the pressure upon Patel, who on Monday was forced to apologise for holding 12 undisclosed meetings while on a family holiday in August. She was also rebuked by Number 10 after giving the false impression in an interview with the Guardian that Boris Johnson and the UK Foreign Office knew about it in advance.
The UK does not recognise Israel’s permanent presence in the Golan Heights, which was seized from Syria in the 1967 war, and so providing aid to the Israeli army in this or other occupied territories would be likely to contravene UK policy.
The prime minister’s spokesman said a conversation had taken place between Patel and Israeli officials after it was reported that she had suggested funnelling money to the country’s armed forces.
Theresa May’s spokesman highlighted that the Israeli army runs a hospital for Syrian refugees, but said the UK currently provides no financial support to Israeli forces and that there would be no change in policy.
May only learned of Patel’s meetings on Friday – a day after she held a meeting with Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in Downing Street to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.
On Monday, Patel clarified previous remarks to the Guardian on Friday in which she had appeared to suggest that the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, knew of her schedule beforehand.
A statement issued by Patel and the Department for International Development said: “This quote may have given the impression that the secretary of state had informed the foreign secretary about the visit in advance. The secretary of state would like to take this opportunity to clarify that this was not the case. The foreign secretary did become aware of the visit, but not in advance of it.”
Patel also said: “This summer I travelled to Israel, on a family holiday paid for by 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 misread, 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.”
Patel did not tell British diplomats that she was holding these meetings, which is the convention.
The Labour party called for an immediate investigation into whether Patel broke the ministerial code of conduct.
Just half an hour before Number 10 confirmed that Patel had considered giving money to the Israeli army, officials from her department declined to confirm or deny whether she had asked her officials to see if Britain could support humanitarian operations in the occupied Golan Heights area.
Instead, the department answered a question that had not been asked and released a statement which said: “Dfid doesn’t provide any financial support for the Israeli army and the secretary of state agrees with our existing approach.”
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