President Obama’s new ISIS czar said yesterday that resolving the Israel Palestine conflict is necessary to defeating Islamist extremists.
Rob Malley, senior advisor to Obama “for the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria” and White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, said at a New York conference that the conflict enables ISIS in two ways. Extremists “refer constantly” to the situation of Palestinians. So they would lose a recruiting tool if the matter were resolved. And the failure to resolve the conflict makes it “very difficult” to get “the kind of open cooperation that we really need to get changes on the ground”– because Saudi Arabia and other states can’t work openly with Israel as matters stand.
Malley said that resolving the conflict was not a “magic wand” to ending problems in the Middle East, but asked if ISIS’s next stop was going to be Gaza or the West Bank, he went on:
I don’t know where the next stop will be but I think there’s a more basic point, which is that the absence of a resolution is fueling extremism. If you want to go to Gaza that’s self-evident. Whether ISIS is going to have a foothold there.. that’s a separate question. But I think it stands to reason that resolving this conflict would at least help, it wouldn’t resolve– but it would be a major contribution to stemming the rise of extremism, and to allow the kind of cooperation that is needed [to take on] what should be a common challenge, which is the challenge of ISIS, and of other extremist organizations.
The conference was hosted by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and the New Israel Fund. The two faces of the Obama administration were evident at the event. At another panel, Haaretz’s reporter Chemi Shalev said that the word is that Obama wants nothing to do with the peace process and it’s a dead letter.
Shalev said that on December 9, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin came out of a meeting with Obama at the White House and said that Obama was washing his hands of the peace process and Rivlin, a rightwing political figure, was put in the position of urging him to engage.
It was a very surreal situation where he was telling Israeli journalists that President Obama kept on telling him how hopeless the situation is and how nothing is going to happen. And he Rivlin of all people was trying to encourage him and to tell him, Well you have to think of new solutions and maybe interim steps…
Shalev then suggested, “the peace process is dead…”
Halfway through the video above, you can see White House liaison to the Jewish community Matt Nosanchuk fighting back against this interpretation, saying that maybe nothing was happening right now, but that a two-state solution remains a central foreign policy goal of the administration. “Who gave [Rivlin] that impression?” Shalev persisted. But Nosanchuk said that Rob Malley, a senior aide to the president on Middle East issues and countering ISIL, would address the question later.
Obama himself addressed the conference with a short video’d speech and UN ambassador Samantha Power also gave a speech about Israel that was very disappointing. It was mildly critical of Israeli settlements and conveyed no real concern for Palestinian freedom.