London, Nov 9 Indian-origin International Development Secretary of UK, Priti Patel, has been summoned back to Britain from Africa amid a growing storm about undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials that threatens her future in Prime Minister Theresa May’s embattled administration.
Patel is under pressure after it was revealed that she held unauthorised meetings with senior Israeli officials during a family holiday in August, the BBC reported.
She apologised to May for holding unofficial meetings in Israel. The opposition Labour Party called for an investigation into her apparent breaches of protocol.
During the visit, Patel, who paid for the trip herself, met a dozen politicians and organisations, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official.
She also met Yair Lapid, the leader of one of Israel’s main political parties, and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was reportedly discussed.
Patel’s press office confirmed that she had cut short her official trip to Africa to travel back to Britain on Wednesday, amid widespread speculation that May would be forced to sack her.
She was formally reprimanded in Downing Street on Monday, where she was asked to give details about a dozen meetings she had with Israeli officials while on holiday.
It is not clear whether Patel had informed May of her plans to look into giving tax-payers’ money to the Israeli military to treat wounded Syrian refugees in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights region — a request that was turned down as “inappropriate” by officials.
It has also emerged that she conducted two further meetings in September without government officials present.
Patel also met Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan in Westminster on September 7. On September 18, she met Foreign Ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York.
In an effort to explain her actions, Patel told the Guardian that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew about her trip. But later she said that the Foreign Secretary was not informed in advance of her trip to Israel, but became aware of it while she was there.
If Patel gets sacked, her departure would throw May’s Conservative government into further chaos following the sudden resignation last week of Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who stood down after becoming embroiled in a mounting Westminster sexual harassment scandal.
Adding to the turmoil, May’s de facto Deputy, Damian Green, was forced to deny allegations at the weekend that “extreme” pornographic material was found on his work computer in 2008.