Controversial Pick Circles Advisory Role at State

Robert Malley closing in on Syria advisory position

Robert Malley (
June 25, 2013

A controversial diplomat with a history of anti-Israel writings could be appointed as a high-level adviser on Syria at the State Department, according to multiple Jewish officials with ties to the White House.

Robert Malley, a career diplomat who was fired from the 2008 Obama campaign for negotiating with Hamas, could be hired for the job in the coming weeks, according to sources close to the issue.

Additionally, Malley was reportedly under consideration to be deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, where he would work on the Israel-Palestine peace process, which Kerry has made a top priority.

One source close to the White House confirmed to the Washington Free Beacon that Malley is "under serious consideration" by Secretary of State John Kerry for a top advisory role, while another source called it "a done deal."

Both indicated that he would likely be responsible for working on the Syria portfolio, which would include future administration decisions to possibly arm rebel forces.

Both sources confirmed the Free Beacon’s earlier report about Kerry’s desire to tap Malley for a high-level posting. They spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the post.

Jewish insiders and some on Capitol Hill said Malley would be a troubling addition to the State Department no matter what roll he fills.

"He will sit at the table," said one of the Jewish officials. "Once you have a seat at the table you can say whatever you want about anything you want, and nobody will tell him to shut up. That’s what this is about."

A State Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

A longtime government insider who worked for former President Bill Clinton and advised then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008, Malley has a history of criticizing Israel while apologizing for terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

He currently serves as the Middle East director of the International Crisis Group (ICG), which did not respond to a request for comment about the possible posting.

"If you look at his writings and see what he’s said, … I don’t think he comes off well," said one of the Jewish officials.

Another source with knowledge of the appointment confirmed to the Free Beacon last week that Malley has quietly been confirming that an earlier Al-Monitor report on the appointment is accurate.

While the position would not require Senate confirmation, sources on Capitol Hill expressed outrage over Kerry’s decision.

"Malley comes from a worldview that sees Israel as a transgressor, as an occupier and that Palestinians are the victims," said one senior congressional aide. "He sees freedom fighters where the rest of the world sees terrorists."

Malley found himself in hot water the 2008 Obama campaign after he entered into direct negotiations with the terror group Hamas.

He also has defended Hezbollah as well as other violent and illiberal Middle East factions in a series of writings and interviews over the years.

An adviser for the liberal fringe group J Street, Malley has repeatedly blamed Israel for the failure to achieve peace despite the Palestinian peoples’ continued support of terrorism.

"For the Palestinians, to accept today a cessation of hostilities while gaining only an end to the Israeli encirclement of their territory, that means that they fought four months to return to the preceding status quo," he said in a 2001 interview.

Malley also has referred to Jewish homes in Israeli territory of the West Bank as "colonies."

"A political opening (immediate concessions of Israel on the colonies or a transfer of the territories and resumption of the peace process) is essential," he said.

Malley also has advocated in favor of containment when it comes to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Obama "took containment of a nuclear-armed Iran off the table—even before any serious discussion of this option has taken place and just as influential U.S. voices had begun making the case for it," Malley wrote.

"He sees political groups, not terror groups, and political agendas that can be resolved through negotiations where we see hardened killers who need to be defeated," said the congressional aide, suggesting that this could be problematic if Malley is responsible for dealing with Syria.