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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 11/10/17

UK minister forced to resign over secret Israel meetings as questions continue to swirl

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In the episode on the Conservative party, an Israeli embassy official was filmed plotting with party officials to "take down" a government foreign office minister, Alan Duncan. He is seen as a rare outpost of support for the Palestinians in the Conservative party. This disturbing incident was largely ignored by the Conservative leadership and the British media.

Patel's membership of CFI is hardly surprising. But her level of commitment to Israel, beyond that of her CFI membership, is suggested by the nature of her choice of "holiday" destination and the endless round of meetings she held there. They were organized by Stuart Polak, who accompanied her and is the honorary president of CFI.

Patel has argued that the meetings touched on entirely innocuous topics. Netanyahu apparently took time out of his busy schedule -- including his frantic efforts to staunch a corruption scandal that could lead to his resignation and jail time -- to chat about Patel's "experience growing up in an area of the UK with a thriving Jewish community" and "her political journey.".

More likely, Israeli officials were keen to talk to Patel for more pertinent reasons. Some are easier to identify than others. Most obviously, Patel's role was to oversee Britain's aid to the Palestinian Authority and human rights groups that monitor Israel's appalling record of abuses in the occupied territories.

Patel had already proven her willingness to cut aid to the Palestinians. It was reported that in October last year she also temporarily suspended 25 million in funds to the Palestine, though her department denied the story.

A foreign office source told the BBC: "She has been pushing to get her hands on the PA aid budget and we have been pushing back." Israeli officials may have hoped they could extract more concessions from her or persuade her to tie aid to greater Palestinian compliance with Israeli demands.

Netanyahu has additionally been leading an aggressive campaign to silence Israeli human rights groups and prevent them from receiving foreign, mainly European, funding. In a sign of how high a priority this is, Netanyahu asked the British prime minister at a meeting in May to end Britain's supposed funding of an Israeli army whistleblower group, Breaking the Silence. In fact, the group receives no money from the British government.

Patel's account of her meeting with Israel's police minister, Gilad Erdan, at least hints inadvertently at another topic that both sides may have hoped would be of mutual benefit. Notably, she met Erdan a second time at the Houses of Parliament in September, in contravention of a decision by her department officials. The meeting was arranged through her constituency office and went unrecorded.

She says she discussed with Erdan the problem of antisemitism in the UK. He, meanwhile, stated in a Tweet that they spoke about ways to "counter attempts to delegitimize Israel in international institutions."


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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)

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