Palestinian envoy to UK slams ‘severe deterioration’ in relations following Priti Patel scandal
On the Patel revelations, Manuel Hassassian, who heads Palestine’s mission in the UK, stated that the “The Conservative Friends of Israel and other powerful lobby groups which work for the interests of Israel in this country usually conduct business behind closed doors,” adding that “this unwinding scandal shows their increasing boldness in their interference in British political life.”
Questioning the reason behind the meetings, Hassassian queried that “maybe, the Israeli lobby groups believed that Priti Patel was a strong contender to succeed the prime minister and they were investing heavily in their new champion at Number 10.”
“The lobby groups have become increasingly stronger in the last few years, forcing British policy towards Palestine to regress and ignore the consensus of the majority of MPs in Parliament and the sympathy and support of the British people for the long overdue recognition of a Palestinian State,” the ambassador added.
“[The lobbying] has taken British-Israeli relations to an unprecedented peak. This has caused a severe deterioration in British-Palestinian relations including Palestinians' strong reservations about Britain's conviction towards achieving peace,” stated Hassassian.
The now former International Development Secretary Patel resigned on Wednesday, after failing to inform Downing Street on 14 meetings she had with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yuval Rotem, a senior figure at the Israeli Foreign Ministry. In 13 of the meetings Patel was accompanied by Lord Polak, an experienced Tory lobbyist and honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel.
Following the meetings Patel proposed that the UK government spend part of its aid budget on funding the Israeli Defense Forces’ operations in the occupied Golan Heights. The proposal contravened the UK’s foreign policy and aid regulations, which only permit the funding of armed forces in extreme situations. Israel took the Golan Heights from Syria in during the 1967 war, annexing it in 1981. The UK, in line with the vast majority of the international community, regard the Golan Heights as occupied territory. The UK’s official foreign policy is for a negotiated settlement based on the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, as stated by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on his most recent trip to Israel.
In her resignation letter Patel apologized, stating “I accept that in meeting with organizations and politicians during a private holiday in Israel my actions fell below the high standards that are expected of a secretary of state.”