In meetings with senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a minister in the British government raised the possibility of giving Israel financial aid towards the treatment of Syria’s wounded. Faced with criticism, Theresa May’s spokesperson clarified: “There is no change in policy in this area. The UK does not provide any financial support to the Israeli army.”

Netanyahu and Patel

Netanyahu and Patel Photo Credit: Reuters/ Channel 2 News

During a personal visit to Israel, the UK’s International Development Secretary Priti Patel reportedly met with top Israeli officials to discuss the possibility of the British government ​​providing the IDF with financial aid. According to a spokesman for Downing Street, Britain has no plans to offer any money to the IDF-run hospitals in the Golan Heights that are treating wounded Syrian refugees.

The publication that the talks had taken place was likely embarrassing for British Prime Minister Theresa May, who was not aware of Patel’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials during a vacation in Israel. Patel told May about the meetings on Friday- two months after they occurred- and only after reports began circulating in the local media.

Nevertheless, May expressed absolute confidence in Patel after the events came to light. “She was absolutely clear on everybody she had met, and [her department] has been very clear this conversation did take place,” said May’s spokesperson.  

“[Ms Patel] did discuss potential ways to  provide medical support for Syrian refugees who are wounded who cross into the Golan Heights for aid,” he continued. “The Israeli army runs field hospitals there to care for Syrians wounded in the civil war, but there is no change in policy in this area. The UK doesn’t provide any financial support to the Israeli army.”

Today (Tuesday) Patel is expected to face harsh criticism from her colleagues in parliament; there are already those who claim that she should be fired for her actions, which were deemed inappropriate for a minister.“No one should be unsackable,” said Shadow International Development Secretary Kate Osamor, who called for an investigation into the affair. “Theresa May’s weak refusal to launch an investigation just won’t be acceptable to the British public. Priti Patel must now explain her actions in full before Parliament.”