The abrupt resignation of the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, on October 9 has provoked much speculation about her motivation to do so and her political ambitions. But for Palestinians – and certainly, for many other small nations targeted by Haley’s angry diplomacy for the last two years – the news brought about a momentary feeling of relief.
Over the past year and nine months, Haley happily led the Trump administration’s vicious efforts to undermine the Palestinian struggle for rights and self-determination, spewing hatred against Palestinians and singing the praises of Israel at every opportunity she got. There can be no rational explanation for Haley’s absurd resentment of Palestinians and love of Israel, other than sheer opportunism.
In his bestselling book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolff describes Haley as an “opportunist” who is as “ambitious as Lucifer”. And judging by her career path, she likely is.
Haley was almost completely unknown, even nationally, when President Donald Trump selected her to be the face of American diplomacy at the UN early last year.
Born into an immigrant Indian family, Nimrata “Nikki” Haley’s career as an accountant took several unexpected turns leading to her being the governor of the state of South Carolina for two terms. If she was arguably suited to that post, she was most certainly unqualified to become the top US foreign policy emissary at the world’s most important international institution.
As soon as she was confirmed to her new position, she developed a disposition that would be remembered by Palestinians as the most aggressive and arrogant among all US envoys to the UN since the establishment of Israel and destruction of Palestine in 1948.
It could be argued that Haley’s anti-Palestinian behaviour at the UN was the natural outcome of deepening US support for Israel.
True, the US-Israel pact at the UN is as old as Israel itself. But the last two decades have taken this relationship to new heights. The already slanted US position on Israel’s occupation of Palestine and its brazen use of its veto power to shield Israel from international criticism reached their zenith during the term of George W Bush’s ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (2001-2004).
The “Negroponte doctrine” – the instant rejection, and if necessary, vetoing of any UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel – remained a staple in US foreign policy until today, with the notable exception of Resolution 2334.
On December 23, 2016, the Obama Administration abstained from voting on a resolution that condemned Israel’s construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Obama’s final act, although feeble and ineffective, violated the main tenet of US diplomacy at the UN. Expectedly, Resolution 2334 enraged Israel and its supporters in the new Trump administration.
Soon after, Haley arrived in New York with a clear and urgent mandate: to right that “wrong” and reaffirm the US’ unconditional support for Israel at the UN.
Eager to reassure Israel that it has not been abandoned by Washington, Haley launched her pro-Israel campaign at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2017, using bizarre, tactless language.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” she announced before 18,000 conference attendees, intoxicated with excitement.
“I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she declared. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”
By “something wrong”, Haley was referring to any censure of Israel, or demand of accountability and respect for international law at the UN, as in Resolution 2334, which she described as a “kick in the gut.”
The US doesn’t “have a greater friend than Israel,” she affirmed.
Haley stayed true to her words. She turned the UN into a platform for defending Israel and demonising Palestinians and their supporters within the international community.
The “Haley doctrine” went even further than Negroponte’s, as the latter was largely confined to blocking resolutions critical of Israel. Haley, on the other hand, stood up for Israel at every opportunity, and, along with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, she conspired to punish countries and UN agencies, including UNESCO and UNRWA, for recognising Palestinian rights or providing aid to Palestinian refugees.
Haley, therefore, tried to manage the UN from within – rewarding and punishing as she saw fit – to end what she strangely perceived as the organisation’s systematic targeting of Israel.
Haley recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and called for the relocation of her country’s embassy before the Trump Administration officially did so in December 2017.
“The capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem,” she told the right-wing Christian Broadcasting Network during an interview in May 2017.
In a visit to Israel in June 2017, she accused the UN in a press conference held jointly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of “bullying” Israel. “If there’s anything I have no patience for, it’s bullies – and the UN was being such a bully to Israel because they could,” she said.
The notion, that of the UN’s supposed unfairness to Israel, was at the heart of Haley’s skewed discourse. A few months later, in November 2017, she spoke about why she visited Israel:
“I went to Israel to see firsthand the country the United Nations spends half its time on. Unfortunately, I’m not kidding – it’s ridiculous. It seems like the rough breakdown at the UN is half the time on Israel and half the time on the other 192 countries.”
Of course, if Haley took time to mull over this statement, she would have realised that the unresolved occupation of Palestine would have not been a recurring issue at the UN if it were not for the blind and unconditional US support of Israel. But, of course, such introspection is of no importance to Haley, who continued her anti-Palestinian tirade for months to come.
In December 2017, the self-proclaimed anti-bullying diplomat threatened those who voted in favour of an Egypt-sponsored draft resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” She vetoed the draft, of course, which was supported by all other members of the Security Council, calling the vote an “insult” that wouldn’t be forgotten.
On May 14, Israeli snipers opened fire at unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, killing more than 60 and injuring thousands. Haley was the only member of the Security Council who couldn’t comprehend the international outrage over one of the worst Israeli massacres in years.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she lectured the other ambassadors soon after they stood a moment of silence in memory of Gaza’s victims.
While her term at the UN was short-lived, her impact was devastating and scarring for international efforts to bring justice for Palestine and for the Palestinian people’s faith in the effectiveness of the UN altogether. And while Haley was duly criticised by Palestinians for impeding international law, she was endlessly celebrated by Israel and its friends in Washington for being a “true friend of Israel”.
“She’s a great champion of Israel in the Security Council,” said Elliott Abrams, a neo-con who served as the deputy national security adviser during the presidency of George W Bush.
Soon after her resignation was announced, Danon spoke fondly of Haley for challenging “anti-Israel bias” in the UN.
“Thank you for your support for the State of Israel, which helped lead to a change in Israel’s status in the UN,” he tweeted, writing with a tender tone: “Thank you for your close friendship and common paths. Wherever you are, you will continue to be a true friend of the State of Israel.”
The US-Israeli love affair at the UN and their ongoing war on Palestinian rights are likely to remain unchanged, even after Haley’s departure. But she personally did so much damage with her bullying tactics that she certainly won’t be missed in Palestine.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.