Downing Street has been accused of lying about their knowledge of Priti Patel’s secret meetings with high-ranking Israeli officials.
The International Development Secretary is thought to be facing almost certain dismissal after being ordered to cut short an official visit to Africa following the apparent disclosure of further unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians.
She has been reportedly summoned by Theresa May to explain herself amid claims she failed to disclose a series of meetings with senior Israeli figures during a ‘family holiday’ to Israel in August.
Ms Patel admitted on Monday that she had held 12 meetings. But on Tuesday night, it emerged she had held two additional meetings, one in the UK and one in the United States.
Downing Street initially said it had been left in the dark over these meetings.
But, according to bombshell claims made by the Jewish Chronicle, Number 10 instructed Ms Patel not to include at least one of those meetings – with Israel’s foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem held in New York – on her list of unauthorised meetings, which was made public on Monday.
Downing Street has denied the claims. A spokesman said: “It’s untrue that Number 10 asked DfiD to remove any meetings from the list that was published.”
The Jewish Chronicle says this was done so as not to embarrass the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The paper has also claimed Mrs May may have been made aware of Ms Patel’s unsanctioned meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just hours after it occurred. A spokesperson for Mrs May previously claimed the PM knew nothing about the meeting until Friday.
These claims are also denied outright by Number 10, according to BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg.
No 10 has just flatly denied the Jewish Chronicle story that said PM knew about some of the Patel-Israeli meetings
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) November 8, 2017
On August 24 – the day of Ms Patel’s meeting with Netanyahu – notes from a meeting between Middle East minister Alistair Burt, British Ambassador to Israel David Quarrey, and Michael Oren, Deputy Minister at the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, refer to a successful meeting between Ms Patel and Mr Netanyahu.
Information about the meeting was said to have been passed to Number 10.
It was reported earlier this week that the Prime Minister only found out about the meeting on Friday after it was reported by the BBC.
The disclosure of the two additional meetings have left Ms Patel clinging to her job by her thread – one which may be terminally cut before the day is out.
It is understood she met Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan in Parliament on September 7, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on September 18, following the August meetings in Israel.
No British officials were present and like her meetings in Israel, she did not report them to the Foreign Office or Government in the usual way.
She was accompanied at all the meetings bar one in Israel by honorary president of the Conservative Friends for Israel lobbying group Lord Polak.