America’s UN ‘sheriff’ Haley caused irreparable damage
Outgoing US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has made her post a “more glamorous” position than her predecessors, as President Donald Trump described her two-year term following her resignation announcement last week. We may never know the nature of Haley’s purported glamour at the UN, but we certainly know that, during her relatively brief stint, Haley has further diminished her country’s struggling reputation, entrenching US isolation in the world’s most vital international political body.
In her own words, Haley concluded that her mission at the UN was accomplished, commending herself on three achievements: The US has become more respected, it saved a lot of money, and it strongly defended Israel against UN “bias.”
“All of those things have made a huge difference in the US standing,” she said. “The US is strong again. And the US is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud.” Nothing could be further from the truth and Haley, who is suspected of engineering a run for the White House in the future, has no evidence to back up her claim of new-found “strength” and “respect.” During his speech before the UN General Assembly last month, Trump’s claims were not met with thundering applause but laughter.
However, there is no question that Haley was a good fit to be the administration's representative to the international community. Her aggressive and self-aggrandizing language tallies with the political discourse emanating from the White House. That aside, considering the violations of human rights committed by Israel during Haley’s time at the UN, her relentless defense of Tel Aviv is no laughing matter.
Haley’s supposed “achievements” of saving money and supporting Israel are intrinsically linked. Indeed, the US saved $1.3 billion dollars by cutting off funds to organizations that were critical of Israel or supportive of the Palestinian people.
Haley’s political outlook is not influenced by true conviction. 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.” In fact, there can be no rational explanation for Haley’s palpable hatred of Palestinians and Arabs and love of Israel, other than sheer opportunism.
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 its zenith during the term of George W. Bush’s ambassador to the UN, John Negroponte (2001-04).
The “Negroponte doctrine” — the instant rejection and, if necessary, vetoing of any UN Security Council resolution critical of Israel — remains a staple in US foreign policy until today, with the notable exception of Resolution 2334. On Dec. 23, 2016, the Obama administration abstained from voting on a resolution that condemned Israel’s construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. Obama’s final act violated the main tenet of US diplomacy at the UN.
The notion of the UN’s supposed unfairness to Israel was at the heart of Haley’s skewed discourse.
Soon after, Haley arrived in New York with a clear and urgent mandate: To do everything in her power to recover the traditional US position in support of Israel. Eager to reassure Israel that it has not been abandoned, Haley launched her pro-Israel campaign at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March 2017, using bizarre, tactless language.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” she announced before nearly 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.”
Haley was true to her words. 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, supported Israel at every possible opportunity and, along with Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, she conspired to punish countries and UN agencies, such as UNESCO, UNRWA and others, for recognizing 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 wrongly perceived as the organization’s systematic targeting of Israel. On 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.
This notion, of the UN’s supposed unfairness to Israel, was at the heart of Haley’s skewed discourse. In December 2017, the self-proclaimed anti-bullying diplomat threatened those who voted in favor of an Egypt-sponsored draft resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” She vetoed the draft, which was supported by all other members of the Security Council, calling the vote an “insult” that would not be forgotten.
On May 14, Israeli snipers opened fire on 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 could not 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.
While Haley was duly criticized by Palestinians for impeding international law, she was enthusiastically celebrated by Israel and its friends in Washington for being a “true friend of Israel.” Soon after her resignation was announced, Danon spoke fondly of Haley for challenging “anti-Israel bias” in the UN.
For Palestinians, however, Haley was a stumbling block in their efforts to finally achieve the justice and rights they need and deserve.
The US-Israeli love affair at the UN, and their ongoing war on Palestinian rights, are likely to remain unchanged, long after Haley’s departure. But, bearing in mind the irreparable damage created by the “new sheriff in town,” she will certainly not be missed in Palestine.
- Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is “The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story” (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. Twitter: @RamzyBaroud