My Word: Nikki Haley’s stellar friendship and promise

Haley’s tough, no-nonsense attitude was combined with a certain compassion and humility. She didn’t criticize the UN because she was looking for a fight or wanted to be provocative.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of an Iranian ‘Qiam’ ballistic missile at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington in December 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley briefs the media in front of remains of an Iranian ‘Qiam’ ballistic missile at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington in December 2017.
(photo credit: REUTERS/YURI GRIPAS)
I feel like I am losing a friend. A friend in a high place where I lack friends. I have never met Nikki Haley but like many Israelis I admire her and am grateful for her support.
One of the nicest compliments I received recently was being compared to Haley after I wrote about my experiences at a UN-sponsored seminar in Moscow. “I don’t know how she puts up with it,” I wrote back to the friend and colleague who had made the flattering comparison.
But the point is, she didn’t put up with it. Since her appointment as the US ambassador to the UN in January 2017, Haley repeatedly showed she didn’t tolerate the anti-Israel bias and hypocrisy, including the existence of an entire division at the UN devoted to Palestinian affairs, the unit that funded the seminar with the mandate of promoting the Palestinian refugee narrative.
While her predecessor, Samantha Power, also spoke against the anti-Israel slant in the world body, she never achieved Haley’s superstar status among Israel’s supporters, perhaps partly because Power was representing the Obama administration. That’s the administration that in its final days, in December 2016, declined to exercise its right to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334 referring to “occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem.”
It was tempting to give this column the headline “Haley’s Comet,” or use some kind of rising-star analogy about her bright future. But there’s a reason pundits are speculating about her running for president in 2024.
Armed with determination and a powerful smile, it’s no surprise that she called her memoir “Can’t is Not an Option: My American Story.” Similarly, few will be shocked to learn that she has great respect for Margaret Thatcher, and like the British prime minister in her youth, the young Haley (Nimrata “Nikki” Randhawa) worked in her family’s shop. She wasn’t just granted respect, she earned it.
The daughter of Sikh Indian immigrants, in 2011 at the relatively young age of 39, she became the first woman and the first member of an ethnic minority to be appointed governor of South Carolina. She was also the first governor to sign into law statewide legislation countering the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.
When US President Donald Trump announced her bombshell resignation this week – refreshingly for him in an amicable fashion – he praised Haley for having made the UN ambassador posting “glamorous” and “more important.” Nonetheless, they had several noteworthy disagreements and one of Haley’s most quoted comebacks was aimed at Trump. When White House economic aide Larry Kudlow said Haley might have had “momentary confusion” concerning the plan for sanctions on Russia, Haley without hesitation replied: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
Among her most famous remarks, she told an adoring audience at the AIPAC conference in Washington in March 2017: “I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement. It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick them every single time.” The pro-Israel crowd fell head-over-her-high-heels in love right then.
She has also employed the “new sheriff in town” image to great effect – backing her words with deeds, not just shooting her mouth off. She was an enthusiastic representative of Trump’s decisions to quit the Iran nuclear deal; move the US embassy to Jerusalem; pull out of the UN Human Rights Council – “a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias” – and fight against its Agenda Item 7 that obliges it to regularly debate alleged Israeli human rights abuses; withdraw from UNESCO, declaring “its extreme politicization has become a chronic embarrassment”; and last but by no means least, the administration’s decision to slash US funds to UNRWA, the UN body dedicated to preserving the unique status of Palestinians as perpetual refugees.
Following her surprise resignation announcement, Hillel C. Neuer, executive director of non-profit monitoring group UN Watch, issued a statement saying: “Ambassador Haley has been a passionate defender of the human rights of victims worldwide, and spoke truth... against oppressive regimes who crush their own people in places like Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Russia, Nicaragua, Congo and South Sudan.
“She was at once a staunch supporter in the US of UN programs that work, and a fierce critic at the UN of mechanisms that don’t.... Her decision to pull out of the [UN Human Rights] council may be vindicated on Friday [October 12] if, as expected, they will add six more abuser states – Bahrain, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Eritrea, the Philippines and Somalia – to a membership that already includes Saudi Arabia, China, Qatar, Cuba, Burundi, Pakistan and Venezuela.”
Incidentally, as The Jerusalem Post’s Tovah Lazaroff noted, the UN did not condemn the terrorist attack on October 7 at the Barkan Industrial Park near Ariel in Samaria where a Palestinian worker killed 35-year-old father of three Ziv Hajbi and 29-year-old Kim Levengrond Yehezkel, mother of a toddler.
The world does not lack problems and “issues.” The Post’s Seth J. Frantzman pointed out that Haley’s resignation announcement comes as the US is dealing with a Saudi Arabia-Turkey crisis over missing and possibly murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi that may involve a UN investigation. I am equally intrigued and concerned that the head of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, could go missing for days before his native China, a UN Security Council permanent member, admitted he had been arrested there.
Haley’s tough, no-nonsense attitude was combined with a certain compassion and humility. She didn’t criticize the UN because she was looking for a fight or wanted to be provocative. She stood up in those famous high heels because she saw an injustice and – a believing Christian – considers herself a true friend of Israel who refuses to be silenced. (Among her many memorable acts was telling Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat: “I will not shut up.”)
In February 2017, following the UN Security Council’s regular monthly meeting on the Middle East, the US Mission to the UN published Haley’s diplomatic but incredulous response: “It’s the first meeting like that that I’ve attended, and I have to say it was a bit strange. The Security Council is supposed to discuss how to maintain international peace and security. But at our meeting on the Middle East, the discussion was not about Hezbollah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon. It was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists. It was not about how we defeat ISIS. It was not about how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of civilians. No, instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated, month after month, for decades.
“I’m here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore....”
In stepping down, Haley has left metaphorically big shoes to fill at the UN. She has dismissed speculation that she will run for president in 2020 but she might be planning for those high heels to take her far – maybe even to leave their mark on the Oval Room carpet in 2024.
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