Nick Clegg: Israel's settlements are 'deliberate vandalism'

Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg today described Israeli settlement building as "deliberate vandalism" in a further signal that the UK government's line is hardening.

Speaking at a press conference alongside Mahmoud Abbas during the Palestinian president's visit to London, Mr Clegg said he condemned "continued settlement building in the strongest possible terms". Mr Abbas welcomed the remarks saying that it was "exactly what we had waited to hear officially."

The Palestinian leader went on to further meetings with Prime Minister David Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague. He was visiting London in advance of direct negotiations with Israel hosted by King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman.

Asked about the escalation of the rhetoric, he said: "Once you've placed physical facts on the ground that make it impossible to deliver something that everyone has for years agreed is the ultimate destination [peace via a two-state solution] ... it is an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years. And that is why we have expressed our concerns as a government."

Mr Clegg would not be drawn on whether the increasingly heated rhetoric would lead to diplomatic or economic action against Israel.

Mr Clegg's words follow a speech by Middle East Minister Alistair Burt at Israel's Bar Ilan University last week, which was also highly critical of Benjamin Natanyahu's position.

He said trust in Israel's good faith was being undermined "because building more and more houses across the Green Line does not show that Israel is absolutely committed to finding a just and lasting solution. It risks sending exactly the opposite signal."

He added: "I have to tell you that the absence of progress towards peace, together with the almost weekly announcements of this tender or that planning permission for new building, has a real effect on how the world sees Israel."

Last updated: 1:48pm, January 16 2012