Obama Team Denies Ties With "Talk With Hamas" Advisor

Question marks abound about Obama’s Middle East plans – such as what role Arab-sympathizer Robert Malley will play in the new administration.

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Hillel Fendel,

Flash 90

Question marks continue to hover over the direction U.S. Pres.-elect Obama plans to take the Israeli-Arab peace process. In particular, Israeli elements want to know what role Arab-sympathizer Robert Malley will play in the new administration.

FrontPage Magazine reported last week that Obama had dispatched Malley to Egypt and Syria to give a message that the U.S. would now take Egyptian and Syrian interests into greater account than until now. 

“Obama’s first act of diplomacy as America’s president-elect,” wrote FrontPage's John Perazzo, “took place two days after his election victory, when he dispatched his senior foreign-policy adviser, Robert Malley, to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad… An aide to Malley reports, ‘The tenor of the messages was that the Obama administration would take into greater account Egyptian and Syrian interests’ than has President Bush… Obama and Malley have called for Israel to engage in peace negotiations with Syria.”

As a result of this and other reports, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has issued a statement stating that contrary to previous Obama-team statements, Malley “is still advising the President-elect.”

The ZOA says Malley is “an anti-Israel Clinton Administration official who resigned officially from President-elect Barack Obama's presidential campaign in May due to his ongoing meetings with Hamas officials.”

Obama Team Denies
However, Jerusalem correspondent David Bedein reports in the Philadelphia Bulletin that the Obama transition team denies that Malley works for the president-elect.  An official letter from the Obama team to the newspaper states that if Malley presented himself as a liaison for the president-elect, it was done without any authorization.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) also reported last week that an Obama aide says Malley is not involved with Obama.  "Mr. Malley has had no connection to the campaign since May, or to the transition," an Obama aide told JTA. "In the past, Mr. Malley was a member of a foreign policy team, and never directly advised Mr. Obama."

Middle East Newsline had earlier reported, in the name of “Obama aides,” that Obama had sent Malley, whom they called his "senior foreign policy adviser,” to Egypt and Syria to outline Obama's Middle East policy.

ZOA Calls on Obama to Clarify
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein stated, “We view these revelations with alarm and shock,” and called on President-elect Obama to “immediately clarify if these reports [regarding Malley’s involvement in Obama’s Middle East efforts] are accurate or not."

Malley: Regular Contacts With Hamas
Then-Senator Obama was criticized in May for having Malley on his team of Middle East advisers, after Malley admitted to being in regular contact with Hamas as part of his work with the International Crisis Group (ICG), whose Middle East and North Africa Program he directs. The ZOA reports that Malley has urged officials from several countries to recognize Hamas, despite its principled stance in favor of the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews.

At the time, Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt stated, "Sen. Obama… will work to isolate Hamas and target its resources, and rejects any dialogue until Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and abides by previous agreements." LaBolt also gave an unequivocal assurance that Malley had provided only "informal advice to the campaign in the past," and that Malley had "no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future."

In a July 2001 New York Times op-ed, Malley alleged that Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, was to blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David peace talks. He wrote similar pieces co-authored with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat.