WASHINGTON (JTA) – The appointment of Robert Malley, a U.S. negotiator at the 2000 Camp David talks, to lead the Middle East desk at the National Security Council has drawn concerns from at least two pro-Israel groups. Malley, whose appointment by the White House was announced on Friday, March 6, assumes responsibility for Israel and the Palestinians, as well as North Africa and the Persian Gulf. Since last year, Malley has handled the Iraq-Iran-Syria-Gulf States desk. He already deals with Israel, and has attended meetings on the Iran-nuclear issue.
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 – 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.
Over the weekend, at least two pro-Israel groups expressed concerns about the appointment. One official told JTA that White House officials last year assured pro-Israel groups after Malley’s hiring that he would not deal with Israel and the Palestinians. In 2008, Malley came under attack because he met with Hamas officials while informally advising then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.