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Netanyahu, rival vie for credit as London 'Tube' removes anti-Israel ads

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The removal of anti-Israel posters from London’s underground train network on Monday prompted sparring between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a political rival as to whose complaint to the British authorities had prompted the crackdown.

A spokeswoman for Transport for London, the authority responsible for the underground ‘Tube’ network, said the ads had been posted without authorisation and constituted “an act of vandalism which we take extremely seriously”.

She did not elaborate, but her statement was prompted by Israeli media reports that as many as 500 posters condemning Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians had gone up as part of an annual “Israel Apartheid Week” organised by activists.

With peace diplomacy at a dead end, Israel has been hunkering down in the face of international Palestinian-led boycott campaigns. It was buoyed last week by a British government ban on British local authorities and public-sector organisations boycotting Israeli suppliers.

In Jerusalem Yair Lapid, an Israeli centrist politician, said he had caused the removal of the posters by telephoning London Mayor Boris Johnson to complain.

“Since the government of Israel, as usual, did nothing, I talked to Johnson, a great friend of Israel, and explained to him that the State of Israel will not tolerate such things,” Lapid told lawmakers from his party.

Speaking shortly after, Netanyahu said he had requested that Dore Gold, a senior Israeli diplomat who was holding meetings in London, ask the British government to crack down on the ads.

“Whoever says we are not taking action is not telling the truth,” Netanyahu said.

Interviewed by Israeli broadcasters, Gold gave credit to Israel’s embassy in London, saying its staff had spotted the ads on Sunday and had flagged them up to British authorities as part of their anti-boycott campaigning.

Writing by Dan Williams and Michael Holden; Editing by Gareth Jones