UK minister quits over Israel meetings

UK minister quits over Israel meetings

LONDON – Agence France-Presse
UK minister quits over Israel meetings

Britain’s overseas aid minister Priti Patel quit on Nov. 8 over unauthorized meetings in Israel, becoming the latest cabinet member felled by scandals that have rocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

“I offer a fulsome apology to you and to the government for what has happened and offer my resignation,” Patel wrote to May, becoming the second minister to leave the cabinet in one week.

May summoned Patel back from a trip to Africa to explain her talks with Israeli politicians and officials, in which she raised the possibility of Britain diverting aid to the Israeli army.

Patel had apologized on Nov. 6 for holding 12 separate meetings -- including with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- during a family holiday to Israel in August, without notifying the Foreign Office or Downing Street in advance.

Patel wrote in her letter that there had been a “number of reports about my actions and I am sorry that these have served as a distraction.”

May accepted Patel’s resignation, replying in a letter that “the UK and Israel are close allies, and it is right that we should work closely together. But that must be done formally.”

The departure comes a week after Michael Fallon quit as defense secretary following allegations of sexual harassment.

Britain is facing a major challenge in Brexit, but May has struggled to keep her ministers in line since losing her Conservative parliamentary majority in a snap election in June, and she heads a government that looks increasingly adrift.

Months of public divisions over the negotiations with the European Union have given way to scandals over foreign affairs and sexual abuse.

May’s deputy Damian Green is being investigated for allegedly groping a journalist in 2014 -- which he denies -- while a similar probe is under way into the behavior of junior trade minister Mark Garnier towards his secretary.