After dropping him as a 2008 campaign adviser over past meetings with Hamas officials, President Barack Obama has tapped Robert Malley to head the White House National Security Council’s Middle East desk.
The appointment has drawn concerns from at least two pro-Israel groups, who point to Malley’s past criticism of Israel and his meetings with Hamas officials while serving as the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported:
Some pro-Israel groups criticized Malley for his 2001 published assessment of the Camp David talks in which he said that the prevailing narrative — that the Palestinians were at fault for the collapse of the talks — was a misapprehension and ignored Palestinian concessions and Israeli failures.
As the director of the Middle East Program at the International Crisis Group, a think tank, he also met multiple times with Hamas officials and said parties to the peace process must at some stage engage with the terrorist group, which controls the Gaza Strip.
Malley, who was appointed the National Security Council’s senior director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf states last year, will now serve as special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf Region.
In a statement Friday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice praised Malley as “one of my most trusted advisers” and “one of our country’s most respected experts on the Middle East.”
Obama dropped Malley as a foreign policy adviser during his 2008 campaign over the Hamas meetings, while campaign spokesman Bill Burton sought to downplay his role in the first place, telling ABC News that Malley was “one of literally hundreds of informal, outside advisers.”
Malley told the Times of London at the time, “I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people.”
An unnamed official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that after Malley was first brought onto the National Security Council last year, the White House assured pro-Israel groups that he would not be handling Israel and the Palestinians. They now fall squarely into his new portfolio.
Following his 2014 appointment, the Zionist Organization of America called Malley “an Israel-basher, advocate of U.S. recognition of major, unreconstructed terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and proponent of containment of Iran.”