British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s charge that settlements are “deliberate vandalism” creates an obstacle to peace, replied Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Opponents to a Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria often cite Jewish communities there as an “obstacle to peace” while those in favor have maintained they are an “obstacle to war.” Abandoning Judea and Samaria and areas in Jerusalem claimed by the Palestinian Authority would return Israel to what former Ambassador to the United Nations Abba Eban called the “Auschwitz borders.”
Clegg's statement was made as he stood next to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who said the condemnation was “exactly what we wanted to hear.”
Ayalon, now visiting London, stated that Clegg's comment “was unfortunate” and added, “I think it was gratuitous; I think it was ill-informed; I think it was somewhat irresponsible and far from the truth.”
He also said it strengthens Abbas; a position of making a "building freeze” on Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria a pre-condition to direct talks that are supposed to be negotiations towards creating the Palestinian Authority as an independent country within Israel’s current borders.
The latest attempt to resume direct talks has been taking place in Jordan, where negotiators from both sides have been with Quartet officials hosted by King Abdullah II, who has the blessing of President Barack Obama and who was hosted by the president in Washington this week.
Clegg defended his remarks, claiming that there is "no stronger supporter of Israel than myself as a beacon of democracy in the region but adding, “The continued existence of illegal settlements risks making facts on the ground such that a two-state solution becomes unviable.”