UK Deputy PM Clegg: Settlements are vandalism

Foreign ministry responds to criticism, saying "it is precisely statements like these that vandalize the fragile chances of renewing peace talks."

UK Deputy PM Nick Clegg_311 (photo credit: Reuters)
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 process.
“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 region.
But, he said, settlement activity does not safeguard Israel’s security.
“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 is halted.
This month it has participated in face-to-face talks between chief negotiators, but Abbas has refused to sit down with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
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 pre-conditions.
It said the peace process has been held hostage to the Palestinian refusal to hold such negotiations.