Netanyahu arrives in Britain after settlements row

By Liz Stephens

The Israeli prime minister is due to hold discussions about settlement building with Gordon Brown tomorrow after landing in the UK today.

Binyamin Netanyahu is due to discuss relaunching the Middle East peace process with the prime minister, but the talks are likely to be overshadowed by comments made by senior Israeli ministers.

Yesterday Mr Netanyahu’s far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, poured cold water on President Obama’s peace efforts:

“Bringing President Obama’s dream to fruition in two years, including an overall agreement and a [Palestinian] state, is unrealistic,” he said.

“Even in another 16 years, we won’t have an agreement.”

The Oslo peace agreement was signed 16 years ago and since then relations between Israel and Palestine have barely progressed, according to most international observers.

Last week, Mr Netanyahu was forced to interrupt his holiday after his deputy prime minister Moshe Ya’alon was recorded on a mobile phone saying that he was in favour of standing up to pressure from the Obama administration on settlements.

“I am not afraid of the Americans. There are moments when we must say, ‘We’ve had it up to here'”.

Mr Netanyahu, the leader of the Likud party, is himself known to be reluctant to recognise the Palestinians’ right to an independent state.

This is likely to put him at odds with Gordon Brown who voiced strong opposition last year to Israeli settlements during a press conference with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

“Settlement expansion has made peace harder to achieve,” he said.

“It erodes trust, it heightens Palestinian suffering, it makes the compromises Israel will need to make for peace more difficult. So we are very clear – not just Britain but the whole of the European Union – what should be done.”

Plans for a new settlement in the predominantly Arab area of east Jerusalem were filed at the city council only yesterday.

The Israeli prime minister is also due to meet US envoy George Mitchell during his visit.