The old time Kremlinolgists often parsed the detailed biographies of key personnel, especially those newly appointed, to gauge the direction in which policy was moving. For the real news was often not in the banner headlines but in the footnotes. Now those same skills can come in handy in Washington. Today the White House announced the appointment of Robert Malley to replace Phil Gordon as .”Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region.
Today, National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice announced that Philip Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region will be stepping down, and will be succeeded by Rob Malley, currently NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States. Dr. Malley will assume his new position on April 6, 2015.
Who is Robert Malley? Wikipedia gives the public facts. He was born to parents with strong beliefs, made his career in Third World issues, was a classmate of Barack Obama, clerked for the Supreme Court, assisted Sandy Berger and worked in foreign policy for the Clinton administration. He also helped found J Street. Now he leads the formulation of Middle East policy.
Robert Malley was born in 1963 to Barbara (née Silverstein) Malley, a New Yorker who worked for the United Nations delegation of the Algerian National Liberation Front, and her husband, Simon Malley (1923–2006), an Egyptian-born Jewish journalist who grew up in Egypt and worked as a foreign correspondent for Al Goumhourya, a newspaper linked closely to Gamal Abdul Nasser’s government. … The Washington Post, on August 7, 1980, reported the elder Malley was a founder of the Egyptian Communist Party and at the time was under investigation by French authorities for pro-Soviet activities. …
Robert Malley attended Yale University, and was a 1984 Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a Ph.D. in political philosophy. There he wrote his doctoral thesis about Third-worldism and its decline. Malley continued writing about foreign policy, including extended commentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He earned a J.D. at Harvard Law School, where he met his future wife, Caroline Brown. Another fellow law school student was Barack Obama. …
According to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Malley provided informal advice to the campaign in the past without having any formal role in the campaign. On May 9, 2008, the campaign severed ties with Malley when the British Times reported that Malley had been in discussions with the militant Palestinian group Hamas, listed by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization. In response, Malley told The Times he had been in regular contact with Hamas officials as part of his work with the International Crisis Group. …
The New York Times reported on 18 February 2014 that Malley was joining the Obama administration to consult on Persian Gulf policy as senior director of the National Security Council.
Naturally he is considered somewhat suspect by conservative members of the Jewish community. Some sense of his reputation can be gleaned from this screaming headline from Front Page Magazine: “Obama Appoints Man He Fired for Hamas Contacts as Middle East Coordinator”. David Frum calls the appointment “jaw-dropping”.
But the thing to remember is that none of this says anything significant about Robert Malley. It says a great deal however, about Barack Obama. Robert Malley as a private person is entitled to whatever views he chooses to hold. The public policy question is whether Barack Obama should cause those views to ultimately influence the official policy of the United States of America.
If Benjamin Netanyahu were wondering in suspense whether punishment for his lese majeste was forthcoming, he need wait no longer. The answering symphony has opened with a roll of deep drums. Now comes the blaring of the brass and dark crescendo of the horns. If anyone needs to ask what comes next, it’s been reported that the Fat Lady is offstage starting to warm up her tonsils.