By Brandon Leach
Like his predecessors, with President Biden’s arrival in the White House came his new appointees. Regardless of which party, each administration’s new arrivals must be held under scrutiny, and that is just what this article will do.
Appointees will be evaluated on their attitudes toward Israel, Iran and the broader Middle East. The microscope will focus on some of the most egregious, spanning the White House, State Department and Department of Defense. It is vital to explore our national leaders’ beliefs through their statements and actions to understand the path our nation will tread.
Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley
Malley held multiple positions in the Clinton administration. In 1998, Malley was appointed Special Assistant to the President for Arab-Israeli Affairs. After the breakdown of the Oslo Accords in 2000, Malley wrote a slew of articles placing, in some cases, the entirety of the blame for the breakdown of the accords on Israel.
Following the failed Oslo Accords, Malley co-authored an article with Hussein Agha, one of Abbas’ senior advisors. Among many other reasons, they faulted Israel for its focus on the refusal of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel’s very right to exist, claiming,
“neither the constancy of the Palestinians’ view nor the unprecedented and evolving nature of the Israelis’ ought to have any bearing on the question of whether the Palestinian leadership recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. It is the substance of the Palestinian positions that should count.”
A basic refusal to recognize a partner’s very right to exist during negotiations is not a basis for good negotiations.
“Malley said that Barak’s offer was not serious and that Arafat was set up by Barak and Clinton. He left off the hook a man who rejected a genuine peace offer and then initiated a terrorist war (the Second Intifada) responsible for more than a thousand Israeli deaths.”
In 2008, Malley was removed from a role in the incoming Obama administration due to private and unsanctioned meetings with Hamas agents in Gaza following protests from the Jewish community and Israel advocates.
Malley is heading yet another round of negotiations to return to the JCPOA, despite the resignation of his deputy in January. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Richard Nephew supported the JCPOA during its introduction in 2015 and was the lead sanctions expert for the U.S. negotiations team from 2013-2014. Nephew hadn’t attended Iran negotiations since December 2021 and had supported a tougher stance against Iran.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel-Palestine Hady Amr
Currently, the Biden administration is not planning to appoint a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. While that position is vacant, Amr could have significant influence.
In a 2019 article, Amr blasted the Abraham Accords and suggested that Israel should work with the PLO and Hamas. He also favored a deal centering Hamas in place of Israel.
In an interview with Georgetown’s Berkley Center ahead of a conference he led in Doha in 2007 as the founding director of the Brookings Institute’s Center in Qatar, Brookings’ biggest foreign funder, Amr stated it would be in everyone’s interest to engage the Muslim Brotherhood.
Like Malley, Amr also wrote biased articles on the failure of the Oslo Accords. He utilized disinformation to justify an anti-Israel slant. In a United Press International (UPI) publication, Amr furthers his blame not just to Israel but specifically on Ariel Sharon. He claimed, “Ariel Sharon has done everything he could to decimate the Oslo peace processes,” further arguing Sharon “clearly outmaneuvered Ehud Barak, Shimon Peres, Yasser Arafat and a whole range of others who were at least on the path to peace, albeit a bumpy one.”
To assert that the Oslo Accords failed because of Sharon subverts the focus away from Arafat’s own failings: Arafat rejected the Israeli offer without providing a counter-offer.
Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya
Zeya worked for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which has published articles attempting to tie the Mossad both to JFK’s assassination and 9/11, accused Israel of organ harvesting and attacked American Jews for dual-loyalty. Zeya compiled research for a book that argues “the Israel lobby has subverted the American political process to take control of U.S. Middle East policy” through the use of “dirty money.”
While exercising her official state department position, she posed with Secretary General Dr. Al-Issa of the Muslim World League, a prolific antisemite.
USAID Assistant Administrator Tamara Cofman Wittes
Wittes praised the violently oppressive state of Qatar, tweeting literal propaganda coming directly from Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister during her time as a Middle East policy fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. Qatar was Brookings’ biggest foreign funder, sending millions of dollars to the institute.
Wittes stood staunchly against the Abraham Accords, believing it “oversold” and a “betrayal of Palestinian interests.” In her arguments against it, she effectively argued for Pan-Arabism, a century-old philosophy that insists the Middle East is Arab and should be only Arabs.
In multiple deleted tweets, Wittes had retweeted an article that called the Abraham Accords misogynistic, a “triumph for authoritarianism,” and a “new naksa” (Arabic for “setback”). During her confirmation hearing, she backtracked her criticisms of the Accords.
Senior Director for Intelligence Programs Maher Bitar
Bitar sits on Students for Justice in Palestine’s executive board and helped organize a Palestine Solidarity Movement conference at Georgetown University.
He’s worked at UNRWA and written papers on the “Nakba” and Palestinian activism. In one paper he argued, “political existence as a state is the cause for Palestinian dispossession and statelessness.”
Bitar also helped BADIL with a publication dealing with Jewish “colonization.” BADIL has voiced opposition to EU rules banning grant contractors from working with people on the EU’s terror list. Additionally, BADIL is a member of the Palestinian NGO Network, which has claimed that terrorist organizations are simply political parties.
Kahl has worked with and spoken at events hosted by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) which has advocated for policies in favor of the current Iranian regime. He is responsible for removing the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital from the DNC’s 2012 platform.
After President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear deal, Kahl said in a now-deleted tweet, “So far, Israel’s plan has worked perfectly.”
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