Sen. Barack Obama quickly severed ties today with a Middle East policy adviser who acknowledged holding private meetings with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Robert Malley – as WND reported in January – advocated negotiations with Hamas and providing the group, which rules Gaza, with international assistance. The U.S. State Department regards Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Malley was sacked by the Obama campaign after disclosing to the Times of London today he had been in regular contact with Hamas in conjunction with his work for a conflict resolution think tank, the International Crisis Group.
He insisted the contact had no connection with his position on Obama's Middle East advisory council.
"I've never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people," he told the Times.
But Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt responded swiftly, the Times said.
"Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future," the spokesman said.
The Times asked Malley if the Obama campaign was aware of his contact with Hamas.
"They know who I am, but I don't think they vet everyone in a group of informal advisers," he said.
Randy Scheunemann, McCain's foreign policy chief, noted to the Times that Malley is one of a number of Obama advisers let go after causing confusion about the Democratic candidate's policies and positions.
"Perhaps because of his inexperience Senator Obama surrounds himself with advisers that contradict his stated policies," Scheunemann said.
Malley's departure follows an exchange of barbs between Obama and John McCain this week over accusations the presumptive Republican presidential nominee suggested Hamas endorses Obama.
McCain's campaign was quoting an audio interview conducted by WND and ABC Radio in which Ahmed Yousef, Hamas' top political adviser in the Gaza Strip, said Hamas "hopes" Obama will win the presidential elections and "change" America's foreign policy.
Yousuf also compared Obama to President John F. Kennedy.
In an interview Thursday with CNN's "The Situation Room," Obama stated, "This is offensive and I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics and that engages in that kind of smear I think is unfortunate, particularly since my policy toward Hamas has been no different than his.
"For him to toss out comments like that I think is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination," Obama added. "We don't need name-calling in this debate."
As WND reported in January, Malley wrote an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun in 2006 opposing the U.S. policy to isolate Hamas after it won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.
Malley contended the election of Hamas expressed Palestinian "anger at years of humiliation and loss of self-respect because of Israeli settlement expansion, Arafat's imprisonment, Israel's incursions, Western lecturing and, most recently and tellingly, the threat of an aid cut off in the event of an Islamist success."
He said the U.S. should not "discourage third-party unofficial contacts with [Hamas] in an attempt to moderate it."