UN human rights expert: 'Israel has killed the road map'

By Reuters

Haaretz

Cheshvan 14, 5765

UNITED NATIONS - Israel has killed the road map peace plan for the Middle East with apparent U.S. acquiescence, a UN human rights investigator said on Thursday, triggering a strong rebuttal from the Jewish state.

"The road map is dead. Israel has killed it," South African law professor John Dugard told a General Assembly committee.

"The world is looking to the United States for leadership in this region, and the world is simply not getting it," said Dugard, who monitors the Palestinian territories for the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Commission.

His remarks came as a gravely ill Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to be rushed from the West Bank to a French hospital for treatment, casting a cloud of uncertainty over the Middle East political landscape.

The United States is part of the quartet of international mediators that laid out the road map to Middle East peace, along with Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

But the other quartet members quietly accuse Washington of encouraging Israeli policies that violate the plan.

Israeli envoy Tuvia Israeli responded to Dugard by saying his work had long been marked by "lack of context, lack of balance, omission of facts and distortions of both law and reality."

By ignoring Palestinians' "support of terrorism, corruption, lack of reform and incitement to violence," Dugard had advanced "a rejectionist myth that only one side has responsibilities and only one has rights," Israeli said.

"Such a myth is not just a lie; it is fundamentally incompatible with the road map and with the true spirit of international law and diplomacy," Israeli told the committee.

Dugard, in a report issued last month, accused Israel of building its barrier on West Bank land in order to confiscate the land and put pressure on Palestinians to move away, rather than to keep out suicide bombers, as Israel says.

The Palestinians have similarly charged that the barrier was a land-grab aimed at dashing their hopes for statehood.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has fueled this notion by arguing that his plan for a withdrawal from Gaza would ensure a hold on much bigger settlements in the West Bank.

The criticism of Dugard marked the second day in a row that the Jewish state criticized a UN rights expert's findings.

On Wednesday, Israel blasted Jean Ziegler of Switzerland, a UN expert on the right to food whom Israel wants dismissed.

Relieving Ziegler of his duties would require the vote of a majority of the 53 nations on the Commission on Human Rights.

"Since his appointment in 2000, Mr. Ziegler has been conducting a public relations assault against Israel, and recently he has escalated his efforts into a trade war," Israeli told the same assembly committee.

Ziegler in June wrote U.S. heavy-equipment maker Caterpillar to say that a sale of its bulldozers to the Israeli military could violate Palestinians' human rights.

"The target of his personal obsession, Israel has faced a barrage of special reports, press releases, and media interviews, as well as appearances at anti-Israel international conferences, symposia and briefings that is out of any conceivable relationship with reality," Israeli said.