Robert Malley, a Middle East scholar who resigned from his advisory role in Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign when it was revealed he had met with the Palestinian terror group Hamas, has been appointed by the president to be a senior director at the White House’s National Security Council, overseeing the administration’s Middle East policy. The appointment does not require former Senate confirmation.
The left-wing Israeli daily Ha’aretz reports that Malley, who also worked in the Clinton White House, was controversial because of “an article, co-written 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.”
However, that is not the reason Malley’s work with the Obama campaign became a topic of scrutiny in 2008. As NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported in May 2008, Malley decided to disassociate himself from the campaign after his meetings with Hamas, in his work for the International Crisis Group think tank, came to light. Later, Hamas claimed to have met secretly with senior advisers to the Obama campaign during the campaign itself.
Moreover, in a lecture in 2007 at Harvard University, Malley criticized the Bush administration for discouraging Israel from talking with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, describing Assad as genuinely interested in peace. Malley also attacked the “Israel lobby,” and argued that Hamas had become more moderate since taking power in Palestinian elections, and that the U.S. should follow Europe’s lead and engage with Hamas leaders.