The confidential end of mission report, first reported in The Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, criticised economic sanctions imposed on Hamas after elections last year for having "devastating consequences" on the Palestinians.

"The steps taken by the international community with the presumed purpose of bringing about a Palestinian entity that will live in peace with its neighbour Israel have had precisely the opposite effect," he wrote in the report dated May 5.
   
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"Hamas is trying to draw us [Israel] into their civil war"

Zafon, Beersheva, Israel

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"Even-handedness has been pummelled into submission in an unprecedented way since the beginning of 2007."

De Soto said he believed there was a tendency among US policy-makers "to cower before any hint of Israeli displeasure and to pander shamelessly before Israeli-linked audiences".

De Soto criticised Hamas, which is currently locked in bitter internal fighting in Gaza with the rival Fatah movement, for its charter advocating the destruction of Israel, as well as Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for weak and ineffectual leadership.

He also said that Israeli policies seemed "perversely designed to encourage the continued action by Palestinian militants". The goal of parallel Israeli and Palestinian states could be slipping away, he said.

Much of De Soto's criticism was directed at the UN where, he said, "a premium is been put on good relations with the US and improving the UN's relationship with Israel".
   
"I don't honestly think the UN does Israel any favours at all by not speaking frankly to it about its failings regarding the peace process," he said. 

De Soto was replaced by Briton Michael Williams when he resigned after two years working on the Middle East at the end of a 25-year career with the UN.