Passport

Will the real Rob Malley please stand up?

The news out of the Middle East today is that high-ranking former U.S. officials have been holding quiet talks with the Palestinian movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. These contacts, which included the State Department’s approval of a debate between a senior U.S. diplomat and a Hamas representative, have been interpreted by Hamas — ...

Jamie Rose/Getty Images
Jamie Rose/Getty Images

The news out of the Middle East today is that high-ranking former U.S. officials have been holding quiet talks with the Palestinian movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip. These contacts, which included the State Department’s approval of a debate between a senior U.S. diplomat and a Hamas representative, have been interpreted by Hamas — and Fatah, its rival — as a softening of the U.S. stance against the party.

Among those leading the charge is Rob Malley, who, along with other former U.S. officials, met with Hamas Foreign Minister Mahmud Zahar in Zurich last summer. A little history: Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director for the International Crisis Group, was forced to abandon his advisory role to the Obama campaign in summer 2008, due to his contacts with Hamas.

In the wake of the subsequent political fallout, Malley backed away from calls for high-level engagement with the organization. "I’ve never come out in favor of U.S. engagement with Hamas," he told a gathering at the Wilson Center last February."Let’s not engage with Hamas. That’s fine by me."

A little over a year later he was in Zurich, participating in what he described to the Wall Street Journal as "an effort to clarify what Washington’s policy is and understand what Hamas’s views are." For someone who was previously so dismissive of the idea, Malley does appear to be partaking in something suspiciously similar to engagement.

A decade of Global Thinkers

A decade of Global Thinkers

The past year's 100 most influential thinkers and doers Read Now

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola