LGF’s all over it but I’m leery of the fact that the only reports thus far are from Middle Eastern media I’ve never heard of. Plus, it’s unlikely that Obama’s first move vis-a-vis Israel would involve a guy who ended up under the bus six months ago for his willingness to chat with one of the few groups even The One won’t meet with. There’s no one less toxic whom he could have picked for this task among his 300 foreign policy advisors?

Then again, maybe this is his way of comforting those within the precincts of tolerance who are feeling anxiety at the fact that our new chief of staff comes from an Israeli family. Exercise caution until the British papers follow up on it (American papers won’t bother), but for what it’s worth, here’s the scoop:

This caution has been justified by Obama’s first staff appointment, offering the chief of staff position to Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanual. The Chicago representative is the son of an Israeli who was a member of the Irgun, famous for its role in the Deir Yassin massacre of Palestinians in 1948.

On the flipside, it emerged that Obama had sent his senior foreign policy advisor Robert Malley to both Cairo and Damascus these past few weeks to outline the president-elect’s plans for the region, which indicates a willingness to further strengthen ties with staunch US ally Egypt and begin boosting relations with Syria.

And here, as LGF reminds us, is what Team Barry had to say when Malley — supposedly never a formal advisor to the campaign — copped to meeting with Hamas:

Robert Malley told The Times he had regularly been in contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza but is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think tank and had no connection with his position on Mr 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 added.

But Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr Obama, responded swiftly, saying: “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.”

In a way I hope it’s true that he’s back working for them since Obama’s reasons for not meeting with Hamas have always been a transparent fraud. “We should only sit down with Hamas,” he said during the campaign, “if they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist and abide by past agreements.” Iran’s guiltier than Hamas is on all three counts yet he’s perfectly willing to meet with them, which makes the lesson in Gaza clear: If you want an audience with the new world pope, work on graduating from a terrorist group to a terrorist state.

Exit question one: It’d be a lot easier to throw rocks here if the Bush team hadn’t already started meeting with Iran, huh? Exit question two: Since Team Barry’s now, allegedly, granting amnesty to former aides who sinned against the campaign, when does Samantha Power come back aboard?

Update: This piece in Forbes confirms that Malley did meet with Syria — but in his role for the International Crisis Group. The only evidence that he was there at Obama’s behest appears to be an assumption made by Syrian state media that he was still working for the campaign:

What really attracted attention, though, was that on the same day a Web site closely associated with the government published a translation of a lecture Malley had delivered at Yale, offering effusive praise for it.

The site referred to Malley as a senior adviser to Barack Obama on the Middle East, even though the Obama campaign says Malley’s role was never official. In any case, the campaign dropped him as too controversial after it was reported that he had met with Hamas officials. The Web site further stated that Malley’s opinions would shape the next U.S. president’s ideas about the Middle East, noting that, unlike the Bush administration, Malley supported a peace agreement between Syria and Israel–which would weaken Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The site noted that Obama had twice echoed Malley in stating that the failure of the war in Iraq had strengthened Iran’s influence. But if the Obama campaign has indeed severed its ties to Malley, it seems that Syrian officials are overestimating his influence.

The cloak and dagger theory here would be that he is still working for the campaign and meeting with people under aegis of the ICG to maintain plausible deniability, but if that’s the case, why would Syrian media blow his cover? All it’ll do is piss Obama off.