Priti Patel admits slew of additional meetings during Israel trip - including Benjamin Netanyahu - and clarifies just what Boris Johnson knew

 
Catherine Neilan
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International development secretary Priti Patel has admitted foreign secretary Boris Johnson did not know about her trip to Israel until she was there - and revealed a slew of meetings not previously disclosed.

The minister, who has been under fire for not disclosing the trip earlier this summer, said the visit was a "family holiday, paid for myself" and the meetings - with a range of politicians, businesses, tech startups and NGOs - were arranged while away.

Patel met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, head of Israel's foreign ministry Yuval Rotem, the minister for public security, information and strategic affairs Gilad Erdan and the leader of opposition party Yesh Atid Yair Lapid, among others.

The meetings were arranged by the Conservative peer, and Conservative Friends of Israel honorary president, Lord Polak, who attended the majority of them. The Foreign Office was aware of the visit while it was underway, but were not informed about it in advance.

However, when reports of the meetings had first surfaced, Patel told the Guardian "Boris knew about the visit".

Today's statement acknowledges that the quote "may have given the impression that [Patel] had informed the foreign secretary about the visit in advance. [Patel] 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 said: “In hindsight, I can see how my enthusiasm to engage in this way could be mis-read, 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.

“My first and only aim as the secretary of state for international development is to put the interests of British taxpayers and the world’s poor at the front of our development work.”

Update: Johnson might have known about the meeting with Netanyahu on or around the time it took place, but the Prime Minister didn't. A Downing Street spokesman has confirmed that Theresa May was told about the visit during a bilateral with the Israeli leader last week.