UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg_311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
The United Kingdom took an unusually harsh tone against West Bank settlement
activity when it described it as an act of “vandalism” to the peace
“The continued existence of illegal settlements risks making
facts on the ground such that a two-state solution becomes unviable,” British
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Monday during a London press conference
with visiting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
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“It’s an act
of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise upon which negotiations have taken
place for years and years,” Clegg said.
He described himself as a strong
supporter of Israel, which he viewed as a “beacon of democracy” in the
But, he said, settlement activity does not safeguard Israel’s
“That is why I condemn the continued illegal settlement
activity in the strongest terms possible,” he said.
Clegg added that
Europe was united in its attitude toward settlement construction and that the
UK’s tone had grown harsher in light of increasing concern that such continued
building would make a two-state solution impossible.
“It is precisely
statements like these that vandalize the fragile chances of renewing peace talks
and finding solutions to the core problems of the conflict,” Foreign Ministry
spokesman Yigal Palmor said Monday night.
“A better contribution to peace
making would be to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer and not inflaming
spirits by unwarranted hard talk,” Palmor said.
The Palestinians have
insisted direct negotiations with Israel can occur only if settlement activity
This month it has participated in face-to-face talks between
chief negotiators, but Abbas has refused to sit down with Prime Minister
The Palestinians have also threatened to stop talks
on January 26.
Israel has refused to cede to the demand for a moratorium
on settlement activity and has called for continued talks without
It said the peace process has been held hostage to the
Palestinian refusal to hold such negotiations.