Theresa May is preparing to lose a second cabinet minister in a week, with speculation mounting that she will sack Priti Patel after summoning her back from a visit to Africa.
The international development secretary’s trip was cut short when she admitted two more previously undisclosed meetings with Israeli politicians, amid reports that she also breached protocol by visiting the Golan Heights.
Whitehall sources confirmed that Patel was flying back to London at the request of the prime minister. A source at the Department for International Development (DfID) said: “We can confirm that she is on the way back to the UK.”
It is understood Patel met the Israeli public security minister, Gilad Erdan, in parliament on 7 September, and foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on 18 September, following the August meetings in Israel.
Downing Street was told about the New York breakfast with Rotem when Patel revealed the details of her trip to #Israel, but No 10 learned only on Tuesday about the meeting with Erdan.
No British officials were present and, as with her meetings in Israel, she did not report them to the Foreign Office or government in the usual way.
She was accompanied at all but one of the meetings in Israel by the honorary president of the Conservative Friends for Israel lobbying group, Stuart Polak.
Patel had a crunch meeting at 10 Downing Street on Monday that was supposed to draw a line under the row. A Whitehall source said: “There was an expectation of full disclosure at the meeting on Monday. It is now clear Priti did not do that. It will now have to be looked at again.”
Patel is expected to become the second cabinet scalp in a week after Michael Fallon resigned as defence secretary last Wednesday. It later emerged that he was forced to quit after several allegations of sexual harassment.
As Patel was flying back to London from Africa, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that she visited an Israel Defence Forces field hospital in the Golan Heights as a guest of the Israeli government before suggesting Britain should help fund the field hospital’s operations.
Like the rest of the international community, the British government does not recognise Israel’s control of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria during the six-day war in 1967.
The hospital is being run under the auspices of an Israeli military medical #aid effort that has assisted both wounded civilians as well as wounded rebel Syrian fighters some of whom have been accused of being members of jihadist groups fighting the Assad regime.
Complicating Patel’s depiction of the visit as private, an Israeli military spokesman suggested her trip had been organised by the country’s foreign affairs ministry.