Israel visit rumpus - why were our MPs there?
Tory MPs on the Fylde Coast today revealed why they had travelled to Israel on fact-finding missions - and insisted they had done nothing wrong.
Both Fylde MP Mark Menzies and Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard had previously visited Israel with the Conservative Friends of Israel – the group involved in the furore which led to the demise of MP Priti Patel.
Ms Patel, the International Development Secretary, resigned after it emerged she had a series of 12 engagements with senior Israeli figures - including prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu - during a holiday in the country in August.
She was accompanied at all the meetings bar one in Israel by the honorary president of the Conservative Friends of Israel lobbying group, Lord Polak.
Both Mr Menzies and Mr Maynard confirmed they had been on trips with the Conservative Friends of Israel in 2012 and 2013 respectively but said they were there in their capacity as an MP, and not representing the government, and all the visits were declared.
Mark Menzies said: “I visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories in May 2012 as part of a fact-finding trip organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel. We had security and humanitarian aid briefings.
“We attended a cross-party meeting with Israeli MKs and a meeting with Palestinian politicians and business leaders.
“We also visited the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem.
“As someone with a substantial Jewish community in the constituency, I am more than aware the Holocaust must never be forgotten.
“The visits, which are organised several times a year, are registered in the proper way, and are held to give MPs a better understanding of the Israel and Palestine issue.
“We attended as invited MPs, not members of the Government.”
Mr Maynard said: “As with many MPs I went on a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“This took place in 2013 and was organised by the Conservative Friends of Israel. This was an important trip which I undertook alongside other MPs, to better inform ourselves of an issue which is often poorly understood.
“The visit was registered in the proper way and has been recorded in the register of members’ interests.”
Details of the trips can be seen on www.cfoi.co.uk.