Barak v. Barack: The Strange Case of Robert Malley

My new piece at The American Prospect explain what’s behind attempts to smear Barack Obama by smearing one of his advisers, former Clinton administration foreign-policy expert Robert Malley.

There’s more at work here than the usual, nearly boring, attempts to slime a liberal candidate as anti-Israel for the “sin” of supporting what Israel needs most — determined diplomatic efforts to achieve peace. Lurking in the background is another of the battles over how Israel-Palestinian history is told. In that fight, the original furious critic of Barack Obama’s adviser is former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. There’s also a lesson about Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy: Besides settling the practical questions, it requires resolving the conflicting narratives about the past. To approach this task, the next president will need not just hard work but a gift with rhetoric, with words…

Read the full article here.

3 thoughts on “Barak v. Barack: The Strange Case of Robert Malley”

  1. This is another in a series of “Malley is a saint and he is the only one telling the truth” articles. Shlomo Ben-Ami was interviewed shortly after the Taba fiasco in 2001 (he was Israeli Foreign Minsiter at the time and clearly no “hawk”) and he said Arafat never made any concessions, he simply kept saying “NO” to all the proposals and demanded more. He said the Palestinians never made a counterproposal, and that they never will. He said they simply want to put Israel “in the chair of the accused”.
    Yes, we have all heard how the Palestinians “desperately wanted an agreement” but, Barak blew it because he offended Arafat when he talked to Chelsea Clinton at dinner and not to Arafat. Tony Karon says there would have been an agreement but Dennis Ross (?!) blocked it.
    PERISH THE THOUGHT THAT IT SHOULD EVER BE THE PALESTINIANS FAULT….even though Arafat told Clinton that he would be assassinated if he made certain concessions.
    There is a long history of “progressive mythology” about how the Arabs longed for peace from the beginning but Israel always did something to block it..that Nasser would put out peace-feelers and then Ben-Gurion would make some remark that would offend him.
    If the Arabs are so fragile that any little thing prevents them from making peace, then maybe they aren’t serious in the first place. If Arafat truly wanted peace, he wouldn’t have unleashed the bloody suicide bomber war at the time.
    The simple fact is that the Arabs (not just the Palestinians) can not agree to any terms that any Israeli gov’t (no matter how “progressive” can live with). This is the reality, no matter how frustrating it may be to “progressives”.

  2. Y. Ben-David:

    Your account is a caricature of Shlomo Ben-Ami’s position. It is true that he blames Arafat for (among other things) failing to offer counter-proposals (something which Malley himself also described, as Gershom’s article observes), but he also skewers the Israelis for undermining the peace deal in numerous ways, both before and after Camp David. He certainly does not think that it is the Palestinians’ fault alone that peace talks broke down, nor does his account give the slightest support to the idea that “they never will” make concessions, or that attempts to make peace with them are inevitably doomed to failure.

    If people would like to see what Mr Ben-Ami actually thinks on this topic, I strongly recommend his splendid book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace (Oxford, 2006), which, among other things, documents in detail how what you call “progressive mythology” has a large element of truth in it.

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