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U.N. envoy faults Israel

The U.N. envoy to the Middle East peace process sharply criticized Israel on the eve of his departure from the region. U.N. Under-Secretary General Alvaro de Soto, a Peruvian who is ending his two-year stint in the region, told Ha’aretz that Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s cross-border raid last summer put Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora, a Western-leaning moderate, “in an extremely difficult situation and put the regime in danger.” Israel, de Soto said, “selected targets with a careless use of its military might and prosecuted the war in a way that disproportionately harmed Lebanese civilians. It went way too far in this war.” De Soto also faulted Israel for its West Bank security barrier and for its decision to withhold tax money it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority as long as it’s run by Hamas, a terrorist group that does not recognize Israel. “The wall creates a cognitive barrier of denial and a release from the need to display empathy to people who live on the other side of it,” de Soto said in the interview, which appeared Friday. “If I could, I would take groups of Israeli citizens and show them how the checkpoints destroy the economy and the fabric of Palestinian life, and how the fence divides mother and child, a farmer and his land.”