Robert Malley, the Administration’s hope for saving US-Persian Gulf relations, will first have to win over his domestic detractors, Israel supporters
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama’s latest National Security Council appointment, Robert Malley, is a man about whom few in Middle East policy circles in Washington can remain dispassionate. The news of his appointment, confirmed Tuesday afternoon, was heralded by the left wing as a sign of Obama’s wise investment in the precarious Persian Gulf, and by the right as a sign that the president had thrown Israel under the bus.
The conservative Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin minced few words in his characterization of Malley as “one of the foremost defenders of appeasement of terror” and “a virulent critic of Israel and an advocate for recognition and acceptance of the Hamas terrorists who rule Gaza as well as engagement with Iran and other rejectionist states.” Tobin suggested in his column that Malley’s appointment as Obama’s top adviser and go-between to mend fences with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States will further undermine US-Saudi trust rather than strengthen it.
But across the political divide, Ziad Asali, president and founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, responded to news of the appointment with enthusiasm, describing Malley as “uniquely qualified for the job with his grasp of the game and close knowledge of the players.”
Asali added that Malley’s “willingness to explore ideas and options exposed him to criticism but deepened his understanding,” surmising that with delicate and critical relationships in the balance, it was “a good moment to have him on board.”
Describing Malley as “exposed to criticism” is perhaps an understatement. In 2008, Malley was serving as an informal adviser to then-senator Obama when it was revealed that he had met with Hamas representatives through his work with the International Crisis Group. Malley countered that the meetings had never been a secret, and that he did not work for the Obama campaign in any official capacity. Nevertheless, as he explained in a letter to The New York Times, “I ultimately thought it best to resign from a post I never enjoyed after a newspaper revealed actions I had already long publicized” because reports of his meetings were “becoming a distraction to me and to Senator Obama’s campaign, and to avoid any misperception — misrepresentation being the more accurate word — about the candidate’s position regarding the Islamist movement.”
This was neither the first – nor the last – run-in that Malley had with pro-Israel critics who cast him as a terrorist sympathizer.
Read more: http://www.timesofisrael.com/obamas-newest-mideast-appointee-gets-mixed-reception/?utm_source=The+Times+of+Israel+Daily+Edition&utm_campaign=8d60a657d4-2014_02_19&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_adb46cec92-8d60a657d4-54571841
“The White House tapped former Arafat apologist Robert Malley to mend frazzled friendships with the Persian Gulf states. Malley was a former adviser to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama forced out of Washington’s power games in 2008 over his meetings with Hamas. The NY Times explains:In 2008, Mr. Malley was forced to sever his ties as an informal adviser to the campaign of Barack Obama when it was reported that he had met with members of Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, which the State Department classifies as a terrorist organization.The meeting, Mr. Malley said in a letter to The New York Times, was hardly a secret and came in the course of his work with the I.C.G., a nonprofit group focused on preventing conflict. Still, he felt obliged to distance himself from Mr. Obama to avoid misperceptions of the “candidate’s position regarding the Islamist movement.”Mr. Malley also came under fire for writing an article, with Hussein Agha, that argued that some of the blame for the failure of the Camp David talks lay with the Israeli leader at the time, Ehud Barak, and not just with the uncompromising position of the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, which was the conventional wisdom then.”