NEW YORK – For the first time in years, the United Nations Security Council will not focus its monthly open Middle East debate on Israel and the Palestinians, at least under the month-long presidency of US Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Haley, who presides over the Security Council for the month of April, told a news conference she would opt instead to push for UN peacekeeping reforms and broader human rights issues, despite the opposition of some member states.
She intends to have the April 20 debate revolve around such issues as Iran’s support for terrorism, the Syrian crisis, Hezbollah and Hamas among others, Haley said on Monday.
“So much has been put toward Israel and the Palestinian Authority and not enough has been put toward some of these other issues,” she said.
“That is our goal for the Middle East open debate.”
Haley had come out strongly against the UN’s anti-Israel bias just after her first Security Council meeting in February, saying the US will no longer tolerate it.
When asked by The Jerusalem Post if she worries that her pro-Israel approach could undermine a US role in mediating a peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Haley said: “I don’t worry about that, because I’ve been honest.
“All I have done is tell the truth. I’ve called it out like I see it and I’ll continue to do that, but there is no one that doesn’t want to see a peace process between those two bodies,” she added. “I think we all feel like it should happen – it can happen and we want to see it come together.”
Haley also said she had urged the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel, during a meeting with Palestinian Authority envoy Riyad Mansour.
“I said that we are not going to support the Palestinian actions here at the UN until they came to the table,” Haley said. “We don’t want to see any additional measures brought at the UN that would bash Israel or would lift up the Palestinian Authority until we can get these negotiations to happen.”
Haley added that she believes the discussions that have taken place at the UN on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict so far “have been more of a hindrance toward the peace process than a help, because it’s caused defensiveness to happen and that’s never healthy for anything.”
After Israel last week announced the first government- sanctioned settlement in more than two decades, Haley said she believes this was a response to the biased Security Council Resolution 2334 passed in December.
“We want to see a pause on additional settlement,” she added. “My hope is that we have willingness from both sides coming together to really allow for that conversation to take place.”
Haley said that, as a “transparency girl,” she has also decided to make all but three of the month’s Security Council meetings open to the press.
“Being president of the Security Council is intimidating and very busy and I am still in learning mode,” she said. “This administration is looking at the UN with fresh eyes. I hope you see leadership from the United States.”
Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon said he sees Haley’s presidency as a turning point for Israel.
“We’ve been very impressed with Ambassador Haley and her stance at the UN,” he told the Post. “The council can be a very important body, but it needs to reorient its attention.”
“There is no doubt that the UN is on notice about the winds of change which have blown in from Washington,” Danon added. “They are not going to tolerate an obsessive focus on Israel with so many other crises around the world.
“Everywhere you see terrorism and travesties in the region, you see Iran,” he said. “If you are going to have a periodical meeting on the situation on the Middle East, then Iran must be the main focus,” Danon said.
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