No Comment — June 13, 2007, 1:26 pm

Exposing a Farce in the Middle East

As followers of this column know, I’ve been tracking the Neocon manipulations in Israeli-Syrian relations for some time, drawing largely on reports in the Israeli press and some scattered sources in the Israeli Government. It offers a fascinating exercise in demonstrating just how overweening the Bush Administration Neocons have been in this relationship, particularly through the personal management skills of Elliott Abrams – the key National Security Council points man responsible for relations with Israel. Israeli officials speaking off-the-record are frequently brimming with anger about the latest stupidity they were bullied into through one of Abrams’s profanity-laced phone calls. When the Olmert Government resolved to pursue dialogue with the Syrians – contrary to the express injunctions of the White House – their biggest concern was apparently planning for the retaliation that would certainly be forthcoming.

Today, The Guardian has a fascinating report on the manipulation of Israeli policies dealing with Gaza and the West Band by the same shadowy hand. It’s one of the more amazing pieces of Middle East reporting to run in the British quality press in some time, and it rests on a highly confidential report by Alvaro de Soto which the Guardian secured. They posted the report on their website here.

The Guardian summarizes the de Soto report:

The highest ranking UN official in Israel has warned that American pressure has “pummelled into submission” the UN’s role as an impartial Middle East negotiator in a damning confidential report. The 53-page “End of Mission Report” by Alvaro de Soto, the UN’s Middle East envoy, obtained by the Guardian, presents a devastating account of failed diplomacy and condemns the sweeping boycott of the Palestinian government. It is dated May 5 this year, just before Mr de Soto stepped down.

The revelations from inside the UN come after another day of escalating violence in Gaza, when at least 26 Palestinians were killed after Hamas fighters launched a major assault. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, head of the rival Fatah group, warned he was facing an attempted coup.

Mr de Soto condemns Israel for setting unachievable preconditions for talks and the Palestinians for their violence. Western-led peace negotiations have become largely irrelevant, he says.

The report itself is a simply amazing document, reflecting a relentless pattern of malevolent intervention designed to frustrate any hopes of peace, to stimulate violence and warfare. The actors are invariably deep in the hidden recesses of the Bush Administration.

I have had a few encounters with Alvaro de Soto. I’d just say this: in dealing with diplomats, I run into a lot of figures who have formality and polish but very little substance. De Soto is striking for his brilliance, analytical abilities and courage to speak what he sees, even when he knows it will ruffle feathers. This report is a good example of all those qualities.

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