|Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli Affairs, "point man" on the Middle East|
|President||Bill Clinton, Barack Obama|
|Children||Miles, Blaise, Frances|
|Alma mater||Yale University
Harvard Law School
|Profession||diplomat, political scientist, advisor to US President|
|Website||ICG Middle East and North Africa Program|
Robert Malley (born 1963) is an American lawyer, political scientist and specialist in conflict resolution. He is currently a senior director at the National Security Council. Prior to holding that title, he was Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group and Assistant to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger (1996–1998) and the Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council (1994–1996). Malley is considered an expert on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and has written extensively on this subject. As Special Assistant to President Clinton, he was a member of the U.S. peace team and helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit. In 2015, the Obama administration appointed Rob Malley as its "point man" on the Middle East, leading the Middle East desk of the National Security Council.
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 (FNL), 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 Gomhuria, a newspaper linked closely to Gamal Abdul Nasser's government. The elder Malley spent time in New York, writing about international affairs, particularly about nationalist, anti-imperial movements in Africa, and made a key contribution by putting the FNL on the world map.
In 1969, the elder Malley moved his family—including son Robert—to France, where he founded the magazine Africasia (later known as Afrique Asia), which gave voice to the causes of the newly independent states such as Algeria and Egypt, and to liberation struggles throughout the world. The Malleys were vehemently anti-Israel and counted Yasser Arafat as a personal friend. The elder Malley was anti-western and supported the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan, the Cuban intervention in Angola and Ethiopia, the seizure of American hostages in Iran, the Algerian-backed guerrilla war in southern Morocco, and the Arab opposition to Israel and the Camp David agreements.
The Malleys remained in France until 1980, when then French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing briefly expelled Simon Malley from the country to New York. 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. A sympathetic crew member on his airline flight did not inform U.S. authorities that Malley was on the plane and instead got him on the first plane back to Europe. The elder Malley spent eight months editing his journal in Geneva, and returned to France after François Mitterrand's election.
The elder Malley was posthumously described by The Guardian as "one of the best known Francophone journalists of his generation, with a rare knowledge of Africa's anti-colonial struggles and the dramas of the continent's newly independent states." 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. In 1991–1992, Malley clerked for Supreme Court Justice Byron White, while Brown clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. As of 2010, the couple has two sons, Miles and Blaise, and one daughter, Frances.
After his Supreme Court clerkship, Malley became a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations where he published The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam—a book that charts Algeria's political evolution from the turn of the 20th century to the present, exploring the historical and intellectual underpinnings of the crisis in Alegria. His book received critical acclaim, and Malley was described as "exceptionally well read, creative in seeing connections and influences, and gifted with a graceful, if world-weary writing style."
Malley served in the Clinton administration as Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council from 1994–1996. In that post he helped coordinate refugee policy, efforts to promote democracy and human rights abroad and U.S. policy toward Cuba. From 1996–1998 he was Executive Assistant to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger. In October 1998, Malley was appointed Special Assistant to President Clinton for Arab-Israeli Affairs, a post he held until the end of the administration in 2001.
After his service with the administration, Malley became Senior Policy Advisor for the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Development in Washington, D.C. He later became Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group in Washington, D.C., directing analysts based in Amman, Cairo, Beirut, Tel Aviv and Baghdad. Malley's team covers events from Iran to Morocco, with a heavy focus on the Arab–Israeli conflict, the situation in Iraq, and Islamist movements throughout the region. Malley also covers developments in the United States that affect policy toward the Middle East. Malley is involved in the J Street project.
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. "My job with the International Crisis Group is to meet with all sorts of savory and unsavory people and report on what they say. I've never denied whom I meet with; that's what I do", Malley told NBC News, adding that he informs the State Department about his meetings beforehand and briefs them afterward. Malley has published many articles in which he calls upon the Israelis (and the international community) to bring Hamas to the negotiating table in order to secure an Israeli–Palestinian ceasefire and insure that any agreement reached with Palestinians will be respected by the Islamist movements in Palestinian society too (see the section Views).
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. On 6 March, the National Security Council announced that Malley would be replacing Philip Gordon as the Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, effective on 6 April 2015.
Robert Malley has published several articles on the failed 2000 Camp David Summit in which he participated as a member of the U.S. negotiating team. Malley rejects the mainstream opinion that lays all the blame for the failure of the summit on Arafat and the Palestinian delegation. In his analysis, the main reasons were the tactics of then-Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak and the substance of his proposal which made it impossible for Arafat to accept Barak's offer.
Malley argues that negotiations with the Palestinians today must include Hamas because the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is no longer considered the Palestinian people's sole legitimate representative. He describes the PLO as antiquated, worn out, barely functioning, and, because it does not include the broad Islamist current principally represented by Hamas, of questionable authority. Malley favors negotiating with Hamas at least for the purpose of a ceasefire — citing Hamas officials in Gaza who made clear they were prepared for such an agreement with Israel.
He supports efforts to reach an Israel-Hamas ceasefire which would include an immediate end to Palestinian rocket launches and sniper fire and a freeze on Israeli military attacks on Gaza. Malley's arguments rest on both humanitarian and practical reasons. Malley points to the blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip has not stopped Hamas's rocket attacks on nearby Israeli towns and notes that the siege has caused millions of Gazans to suffer from lack of medicine, fuel, electricity and other essential commodities, so cease-fire would avoid "enormous loss of life, a generation of radicalized and embittered Gazans, and another bankrupt peace process."
In addition, Malley calls for Israel, the Palestinians, Lebanon, Syria and other Arab countries to resume negotiations on all tracks based on the Arab Peace Initiative, which promises full Arab recognition and normalization of relations with Israel in the context of a comprehensive peace agreement in exchange for a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories to the 1967 borders, the recognition of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a "just solution" for Palestinian refugees.
"Today, Malley still stands out for his calls to engage in negotiations with Syria and Iran and for finding 'some kind of accommodation' with Hamas", The Jewish Daily Forward reported in February 2008.
Criticism from Israel supporters
Malley was criticized by supporters of Israel after co-authoring an article in the July 8, 2001 edition of The New York Review of Books arguing that the blame for the failure of the 2000 Camp David Summit should be divided among all three leaders who were present at the summit, Arafat, Barak, and Bill Clinton, not just Arafat, as was suggested by some mainstream policy analysts. "Later, however, other scholars and former officials voiced similar views to those of Malley", according to a February 20, 2008 article in The Jewish Daily Forward.
In 2008, the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Hamas engaged in talks with presidential candidate Obama for months through aides. The article quotes Ahmad Yousuf, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s political advisor as saying: “We were in contact with a number of Obama’s aides through the Internet, and later met with some of them in Gaza, but they advised us not to come out with any statements, as they may have a negative effect on his election campaign and be used by Republican candidate John McCain (to attack Obama).”
Malley and his views have come under attack from other critics, such as Martin Peretz of the magazine The New Republic, who has opined that Malley is "anti-Israel", a "rabid hater of Israel. No question about it", and that several of his articles in the New York Review of Books were "deceitful." On the conservative webzine The American Thinker, Ed Lasky asserted that Malley "represents the next generation of anti-Israel activism."
Malley told the Jewish Daily Forward that "it tends to cross the line when it becomes as personal and as un-based in facts as some of these have been." While he loved and respected his father, he said, their views sometimes differed, and it is "an odd guilt by association" fallacy to criticize him based on his father's views. Simon Malley was called a sympathizer of the PLO by Daniel Pipes.
In response to what they called "vicious, personal attacks" on Malley, five Jewish, former U.S. government officials — former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Ambassador Martin Indyk, Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer, Ambassador Dennis Ross, and former State Department Senior Advisor Aaron David Miller — published a letter (dated February 12, 2008) in the New York Review of Books defending Malley. They wrote that the attacks on Malley were "unfair, inappropriate, and wrong", and objected to what they called an attempt "to undermine the credibility of a talented public servant who has worked tirelessly over the years to promote Arab-Israeli peace and US national interests." This view is also shared by M.J. Rosenberg, Director of Policy for Israel Policy Forum and a former editor at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, who condemned the attacks on Malley, writing that Malley is "pro-Israel" and the only reason he is being criticized is because he supports Israeli–Palestinian negotiations.
- The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam, Berkeley: University of California Press (1996), ISBN 978-0-520-20301-3
Selected published articles
- Robert Malley, The Gaza time bomb, The International Herald Tribune, January 21, 2008
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "Middle East Triangle", The Washington Post, January 17, 2008
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "The Road from Mecca", New York Review of Books, May 10, 2007
- Robert Malley, "Forget Pelosi. What About Syria?", The Los Angeles Times, April 11, 2007
- Robert Malley & Henry Siegman, "The Hamas Factor", The International Herald-Tribune, December 27, 2006
- Robert Malley & Peter Harling, "Containing a Shiite symbol of hope", The Christian Science Monitor, October 24, 2006
- Robert Malley, "Mideast: Avoiding failure with Hamas", The International Herald-Tribune, April 10, 2006
- Robert Malley & Gareth Evans, "How to Curb the Tension in Gaza", The Financial Times, July 5, 2006
- Robert Malley & Peter Harling, "The enemy we hardly know", The Boston Globe, March 19, 2006
- Robert Malley, "Making the Best of Hamas' Victory", Common Ground News Service, March 2, 2006
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "Hamas has arrived - but there are limits to its advance", The Guardian, January 24, 2006
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "A durable Middle East peace: Oslo didn't achieve it, nor has the Bush "road map." So what would satisfy both sides?",American Prospect, November 1, 2003
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "Camp David and After: An Exchange (A Reply to Ehud Barak)", New York Review of Books, June 13, 2002
- Robert Malley, "Rebuilding a Damaged Palestine", The New York Times, May 7, 2002
- Robert Malley, "Playing into Sharon's Hands", The New York Times, January 25, 2002
- Robert Malley & Hussein Agha, "Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors", New York Review of Books, August 9, 2001
- "Robert Malley biography page". International Crisis Group. Archived from the original on 2008-04-10. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Malley, Robert; Hussein Agha. On March 6th, 2015, the White House announced that he would become the Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region, replacing Phil Gordon. (2001-08-09). "Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- White House names Israel critic to top Mideast post BY JTA, March 8, 2015, 3:13 pm 36
- Brittain, Victoria (September 27, 2006). "Obituary: Simon Malley". Guardian (London). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- "President Names Statement by the Press Secretary on Robert Malley Appointment" (Press release). Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Guttman, Nathan (February 20, 2006). "Peace Negotiator Who Advised Obama Campaign Strikes Back at Critics". Jewish Daily Forward. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- "The Call From Algeria". University of California Press. November 1996. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Baldwin, Tom (May 10, 2008). "Barack Obama sacks adviser over talks with Hamas". The Times (London). Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- "Informal Obama Adviser Steps Aside Over Hamas Talks". First Read blog at MSNBC website, report by Andrea Mitchell. May 9, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- "Ex-Clinton aide returns to White House with Persian Gulf brief". Haaretz. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/06/statement-nsc-spokesperson-bernadette-meehan-special-assistant-president Statement by NSC Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on the Special Assistant to the President and White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf Region], WhiteHouse.gov
- Malley, Robert; Hussein Agha (2007-05-10). "The Road to Mecca". New York Review of Books. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Malley, Robert (2008-01-21). "The Gaza Time Bomb". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
- Peretz, Martin (2008-01-31). "Can Friends of Israel — and Jews — Trust Obama? In a word, yes.". The New Republic. Retrieved 2008-05-10.
- Pipes, Daniel, The Long Shadow: Culture and Politics in the Middle East Transaction Publishers: 1989. ISBN 0-88738-849-3, p 137, as presented in a Google Books search. Retrieved on January 27, 2008
- Letters to the NYRB: In Defense of Robert Malley New York Review of Books, March 20, 2008 p. 53
- Rosenberg, Michael (2008-02-18). "Smearing Rob Malley". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-04-25.
- Robert Malley at the International Crisis Group
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Robert Malley at the Internet Movie Database
- Works by or about Robert Malley in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Malley's Testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations SubCommittee on Near East Affairs, November 8, 2007