LONDON: The UK’s international development secretary, Priti Patel, has apologized for a previously undisclosed meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a family holiday.
She also apologized for implying in quotes published last Friday that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was aware of the trip in advance.
Patel visited Israel between Aug. 3 and 25 on a trip she paid for herself, according to a statement from the Department for International Development. The Foreign Office was not aware of her visit until she was in the country.
A Conservative peer, Lord Polak, helped organize the meetings and attended most of them. Patel has now published a list of everyone she met.
“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 apologize for it,” she said in an official statement published Monday.
The statement also clarified quotes published in the Guardian newspaper on Nov. 3 that suggested that the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson knew the trip was to take place.
“Boris knew about the visit. The point is that the Foreign Office did know about this, Boris knew about (he trip),” she is quoted as saying in the paper.
Monday’s statement confirmed that Johnson did not have advanced notice of the visit. Patel said she “regrets the lack of precision” in the wording of those comments.
Patel also met with Yuval Rotem from the Israeli foreign ministry; Gilad Erdan, minister for public security, information and strategic affairs; and Yair Lapid, the leader of the Yesh Atid party, among others, including representatives from technology startups, charities and aid organizations.
The Foreign Office said UK interests were not “damaged or affected” by the meetings.
Patel’s apology comes after Netanyahu’s official visit to the UK last week where he met with Prime Minister Theresa May on Nov. 2.