The Daily Telegraph reports: Nick Clegg tilted Britain’s Middle East policy sharply towards the Palestinians on Monday with an attack on Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank.
The Deputy Prime Minister drew a hostile reaction from Israel by saying the government’s continued construction on internationally recognised Palestinian land was “an act of deliberate vandalism” that undermined the basis of the Middle East peace process.
In some of the most critical language ever used by a senior European politician in government, Mr Clegg accused Israel of making the likelihood of a negotiated settlement to the conflict impossible to deliver.
“It is an act of deliberate vandalism to the basic premise on which negotiations have taken place for years and years and years,” Mr Clegg said.
AFP reports: The number of Israeli settlers living in the West Bank at the end of 2011 rose by 4.3 percent compared with the previous year to 342,414, an Israeli lawmaker said in a statement on Sunday.
Citing official data obtained from the interior ministry, Yaakov Katz of the far-right National Union party said the number of settlers in the West Bank had increased despite a 2010 partial settlement freeze, which he claimed continued to slow Jewish construction in the West Bank in 2011.
Katz said there were now more than 700,000 Israelis living in areas occupied by Israel in 1967, including east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
He said some 300,000 Jews now live in east Jerusalem, along with another 20,000 in the Golan Heights, both beyond the so-called Green Line, the armistice line agreed after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.
The figures given by Katz for overall settlement population and the number of settlers in east Jerusalem far exceed those usually cited by watchdog groups.
Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now put the number of settlers in east Jerusalem in 2010 at 200,000, with another 18,000 in the Golan Heights, and 311,000 in the West Bank.
Katz said another 60,000 Jewish Israelis were studying at institutions in West Bank settlements in 2011, meaning there are “currently 720,000 Jews residing beyond the Green Line.”