Rob Malley, a Middle East policy adviser to likely Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama, resigned after news surfaced that he had been meeting with Hamas -- something Obama pledged he himself would never do.
Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said Saturday Malley called the Obama campaign on Friday to sever ties with the candidate after learning the Times of London was publishing a story about his contacts with the terrorist group.
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Malley is an analyst at the Washington, D.C.-based International Crisis Group, specializing in the Israeli-Arab conflict. He told NBC News that his job "is to meet with all sorts of savory and unsavory people and report on what they say. I've never denied whom I meet with; that's what I do."
LaBolt said, "Sen. Obama strongly opposes talking to Hamas, a terrorist group committed to Israel's destruction. As president, he will work to isolate Hamas and target its resources, and rejects any dialogue until Hamas recognizes Israel, renounces terrorism, and abides by previous agreements."
LaBolt, downplaying Malley's role, 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 issue of whether to have dealings with Hamas is a particularly sensitive matter for Obama, who needs to persuade skeptical Jewish voters that he is a strong supporter of Israel. Last week, presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) highlighted a Hamas leader's statement that he hoped Obama would win the White House. Asked about McCain's suggestion that Obama is "favored by Hamas," Obama said McCain was "losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination."
Last month, as former President Jimmy Carter was set to meet with Hamas leaders, Obama told a group of Jewish activists and clergy in Philadelphia that he would not sit down with Hamas.