Israel attacks UK Dep PM Clegg over settlement comments 19Jan12 January 19, 2012

ABC News -  18 January 2012

An Israeli minister has called Britain’s deputy prime minister Nick Clegg irresponsible and ill-informed for condemning Israeli settlements as “deliberate vandalism” of efforts to establish a Palestinian state.

Israeli deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who is visiting London, said Mr Clegg’s comment gave the Palestinians an excuse to set pre-conditions for entering negotiations with Israel on a Middle East peace settlement.

“I think it was unfortunate, I think it was gratuitous, I think it was ill-informed, I think it was somewhat irresponsible,” he said.

Mr Ayalon said Mr Clegg’s comment was “far from the truth” and gave the Palestinians an excuse to set more pre-conditions for talks that would create obstacles to moving forward with negotiations.

Speaking during a visit by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas to London on Monday, Mr Clegg said expanding Jewish settlements was “an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise upon which negotiations have taken place for years”.

Mr Clegg leads the Liberal Democrats, the junior partner in Britain’s Conservative-led coalition.

Israelis and Palestinians have begun exploratory talks in Amman, Jordan, on resuming full negotiations on a peace accord.

Mr Abbas suspended talks 15 months ago over Israel’s expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinians want to found a state.

The Palestinians have previously demanded a halt to Jewish settlement building in the West Bank before holding more talks.

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