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The De Soto Report: Three Jokers and a Bully: The Myth of Even Handedness

June 22, 2007

An initial search to see if any mainstream media reported on the De Soto Report came up empty. If `Google’ is accurate, a week after the report become public, leaked to the British media, no American source of information deemed it newsworthy. A few bloggers here have taken up the issue, but at this point, that’s about it. I assume the bloggers learned of the De Soto Report’s existence as I did, from the British media. Both The Financial Times (6/14) and The Guardian (6/13) ran stories. The on-line Guardian article also provided a link to the report itself which was labeled as `confidential’.

The De Soto Report is the informal name given to what is more accurately called the `End of Mission Report, by Alvaro De Soto. Until a few weeks ago De Soto, a career lifetime diplomat from Peru, was the Under-Secretary-General United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and the Personal Representative of the Secretary-General of the UN to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority Envoy to the Quartet. (the US, EU, UN and Russia) Put another way, De Soto, no diplomatic lightweight, was the UN’s point man to the Israelis and Palestinians. As such he was potentially an important diplomatic player in facilitating peace making between not only the Israelis and Palestinians but also Israel, Syria and Lebanon. That might have been the case had it not been for the Bush Administration and his own boss, former, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, constantly pulling out the rug from under him and redefining and limiting the scope of his mission until it was, according to De Soto, largely irrelevant.

De Soto appears to have written the report on his own initiative, much to the embarrassment of the United Nations, the Bush Administration and the Quartet. Frustrated by the UN’s inability to learn from its own experiences and mistakes – `at the UN’, where, he tells us `no wheel shall go un-reinvented’- de Soto felt what seems to have been a moral obligation to at least leave a paper trail of his tenure and of the plethora of road blocks that were placed in his peace-making path.

As a UN internal document, it wouldn’t have meant much, just another report filed – or simply thrown out – but as a leaked document that has been highlighted in two major English newspaper, it comes alive. While it is doubtful the report itself will lead to much change on the ground, written by `an insider’ – and a man with long standing diplomatic credentials – it gives credence to those (myself included) who long thought that the `Road Map’ has been a cynical process all along.

But more, it documents, blow by blow, in a carefully written analysis to degree to which the Bush Administration, while claiming to support the Road Map has done everything its power to undermine, freeze the process. It must have infuriated – nothing less – the Bush Administration in particular for its expose and deeply embarrased the European Union and the United Nations as well. The European Union and the United Nations, most especially through its former Secretary General, Kofi Annan, come off as little more than US patsies, easily pushed around, pliant very junior partners at best. Willing tools, little more. It suggest that the degree to which the US uses (and abuses) the UN to pursue its foreign policy goals is virtually unlimited.

Few will be surprised that neo-con Undersecretary of State Elliott Abrams spared no efforts to smother any momentum towards peace, including threatening to withdraw UN funding if de Soto pursued plans to simply talk to Hamas but that Secretary of State Condolezza Rice repeated intervened as well along the same lines might be more revealing. In the end De Soto saw the quartet’s efforts as little more than laughable – a cover for Bush Administration’s policies – now come to fruition in the Palestinian violence in Gaza – to split Hamas off from the Palestinian Authority, and so weaken the Palestinian movement that it would be more pliable to a US-Israeli unilaterally imposed solution.

The moral depravity of the Europeans and the United Nations to simply rubber stamp Bush Administration’s decisions was even more pervasive and startling than I would have imagined. There was virtually no resistance to the US efforts to establishing the sanctions which have squeezed the Palestinians to near death. Despite a few symbolic gestures of protest rather late in the game, Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General from Ghana, comes off as little more than a pliant Bush Administration water boy (with a grand title to soften the indignity). Same goes for the Europeans that let the Bush Administration walk all over them at will. Russia, which participates in the Quartet, also comes up malleable, complicit.

The willingness of the Europeans and the UN to accept this role, is curious. My speculation: In the case of the Europeans, they have been locked into some kind of grand deal with the US since they were forced to come begging to Washington for military aid in dealing with the war in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. That crisis revealed the E.U.’s inability or unwillingness to deal with regional security issues on its own. In exchange for US military aid, the Europeans acquiessed to US policy in the Middle East to a considerable extent. If that consensus broke down with the 2003 US led invasion of Iraq, it has held – remarkably well – with the policy toward Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

De Soto gives credence to what was only all to obvious from watching the flow of events – even from here in Denver – that the Bush Administration had forced through an international boycott of the Hamas-led Palestinian government that has had `devastating consequences for the Palestinian people’. In the report De Soto accuses the United States – under the umbrella of the Quartet- of using `undue pressure’ to impose a one-sided, pro-Israeli agenda of diplomacy in the region that has `hindered efforts to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. Evenhandedness is non-existent: The Quartet policy was to “take all the pressure off of Israel. With all the focus on the failings of Hamas, the Israeli settlement enterprise and barrier (the wall) construction have continued unabated’

As a result of its record, De Soto argues that the Quartet has lost its `impartiality’ (it never had any), that it had failed to hold Israel to its obligation under the Road Map – the grand scheme which De Soto remained committed to despite its flaws and shortcomings. Having already sacrificed much of its credibility, De Soto argues that as a result, the UN has lost much influence and prestige as an international peace making body in the Middle East, especially among the Palestinians. For the sake of its reputation and future peace making efforts, De Soto recommends that the UN pull out of the Quartet.

The entire 52 page report is worth the read and is available on the home page of this website

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