Friday, February 15, 2008

The Rob Malley Affair -- Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Sandy Berger, Aaron Miller, and Dan Kurtzer Respond To Martin Peretz et al.

Dan Fleshler posted a letter on Realistic Dove which is a must-read. The letter is from the entire Clinton Israel-Palestinian peace-process team defending former Clinton Middle East advisor Robert Malley from the slurs and defamations of republicans and gruff old liberal-hawks like the New Republic's publisher, Martin Peretz.

Malley, as you may know, co-wrote a highly influential analysis of Camp David in the New York Review of Books that challenged the Israeli spin. The article, which drew front-page coverage in Israel, also provoked a bigoted and embarrassing response from Ehud Barak and Benny Morris. That was quite nice collateral damage.

OK, so you don't have to agree with Malley. Ross didn't, and he wrote a respectful letter to the NYRB about it. But from there to write, as Marty Peretz did,
Malley, who has written several deceitful articles in The New York Review of Books, is a rabid hater of Israel. No question about it
shows how delusional Peretz is. Look, I feel sorry for Peretz; he has run the New Republic into the ground, the readership is at an all-time low, and his support for Obama is apparently motivated by his hatred for the Clintons. He will lose, and lose big, if Obama wins. And now he is getting dissed by the entire Clinton Middle East team -- and rightfully so.

I had lunch with Malley last Shabbat. He seemed to be miffed by the attacks, although he is old enough to know that anybody who deviates a bit from the Israel orthodoxy will be considered by the a.k.'s "a rabid hater of Israel." It would be inappropriate for me to blog about what we discussed around the Shabbat table. But this much I will say: I gave Malley every opportunity I could to criticize Dennis Ross's handling of the Clinton peace process, or his performance at Camp David. I raised what I thought were obvious questions about US bias towards the liberal-Zionist position and the failure of the US to be an honest broker. He did not take the bait. On the contrary, somewhat to my surprise, he refused to be drawn in. He disagreed with Ross, whom he considers a friend, but he consistently took the high road. And I don't think he was just playing the diplomat, either. That reflects a certain nobility of character that makes Peretz's scurrilous attack all the more demeaning for Peretz.

Malley now works at a Washington think-tank called the International Crisis Group. In the weeks to come I will comment on some of their position-papers on Israel-Palestine. Some are well-worth reading.

Well, there are Rob Malley's in this world, and then there are Marty Peretzes.

I try to stand with the former.

Oh, heck, I'll save you all a click. Here is the letter:

Over the past several weeks, a series of vicious, personal attacks have been launched against one of our colleagues, Robert Malley, who served as President Clinton's Special Assistant for Arab-Israeli affairs. They claim that he harbours an anti-Israeli agenda and has sought to undermine Israel's security. These attacks are unfair, inappropriate and wrong. They are an effort 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. They must stop.

We have real differences among us about how best to conduct US policy toward the Middle East and what is the right way to build a lasting two-state solution that protects Israel's security. But whatever differences do exist, there is no disagreement among us on one core issue that transcends partisan or other divides: that the US should not and will not do anything to undermine Israel's safety or the special relationship between our two nations. We have worked with Rob closely over the years and have no doubt he shares this view and has acted consistent with it.

We face a critical period in the Middle East that demands sustained, determined and far-sighted engagement by the United States. It is not a time for scurrilous attacks against someone who deserves our respect.

The letter is signed by Sandy Berger, Den Kurtzer, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, and Aaron Miller.


Anonymous said...

Just one minor point. The International Crisis Group is based in Brussels, not Washington. It is a genuine international body reflected in its board. Its current president is former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. The ICG work on the Israel/Palestine conflict has been first class.

Sol Salbe
Melbourne Australia

Jerry Haber said...

Not a minor point at all. Thanks, Sol!