Heather Nauert arrives for the release of the 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom on May 29, 2018, in the Press Briefing Room at the US Department of State in Washington, DC.
(photo credit: MANDEL NGAN / AFP)
Heather Nauert, State Department spokeswoman and former Fox News reporter, will be replacing Nikki Haley as the next ambassador to the United Nations. With big shoes to fill, many Israelis wonder how Nauert will compare to her predecessor.
Though Nauert is a President Donald Trump favorite and a current voice for the administration, Haley was considered a cherished diplomat to the pro-Israel community. Those wondering how she’ll weigh up will look to her time at the State Department, where Nauert speaks frequently about Israel and the Middle East.
During press briefings, she often sticks to the script and maintains the administration’s staunch pro-Israel stance. When asked about controversial Israeli policies or decisions, she almost always defers to the Israeli government.
Questioned about the proposed demolition of the West Bank Bedouin village Khan al-Ahmar,
she emphasized the Israeli legal process and the decisions of its courts.
“The impending evacuation of the Bedouin residence in that village follows a lengthy legal process I believe that’s gone on for eight years or so, and I’d just have to refer you back to the Government of Israel on that one.”
She embraced a similar approach on the case of Lara Alqasem
, an American student who was detained and denied entry to Israel for her alleged support of BDS.
“Our embassy is providing consular access, as we would to all American citizens. We value freedom of expression.” She went on to say, “Ultimately, it is up to the Government of Israel to decide who it wants to let into the country,” while downplaying Alqasem’s detainment, which was the focus of the reporter’s question.
Nauert has displayed some of Haley’s signature fiery rhetoric when condemning Israel’s enemies.
Regarding the November flare-up in Gaza
, Nauert denounced Hamas’s rocket attacks
resolutely, while pledging support to Israel and its right to self-defense.
Addressing months of protests on the Gaza border
and heightened tension, Nauert said, “Let’s remember in large part what has gotten the Israelis and Palestinians to this point, and that is Hamas. And Hamas bears the ultimate responsibility for the misery of the people living in Gaza and in some of the surrounding areas.
“Hamas is reckless when it encourages people to show up, when it encourages people to fight, when it encourages young people to try to engage in violence.”
Nevertheless, she had difficulty justifying the State Department’s cuts to aid in the east Jerusalem hospital network
or explaining how the money will be repurposed.
During one exchange, she explained that Israel would be providing the necessary resources to Khan al-Ahmar’s “incoming residents,” though after confusion from the press corps, clarified she meant the outgoing Bedouins.
Her occasional failure to compellingly advocate on behalf of Israel is more likely due to her short tenure in government than a weakness in pro-Israel ideology. She’s coming on the heels of Haley, who spent 14 years as a politician, including two terms as governor of South Carolina.
In an April Quinnipiac University poll, Haley was ranked America’s most popular politician.
She earned the adoration of most Israelis for her work to move the US Embassy o Jerusalem, withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council over anti-Israel bias and cut aid to UNRWA.
The Jerusalem Post heralded Nikki Haley in an editorial, writing,
“There are few who have stood up as boldly for Israel and the Jewish people as departing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has, in a forum that has been historically hostile to both.”
The sentiment was shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who bid her farewell in a letter,
writing that Israel is “profoundly grateful “for everything you have done and continue to do for us.” It remains to be seen if Nauert will earn the same devotion and reverence from Israel and the Jewish community.
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