Whatever her future aspirations, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will be remembered as a stalwart champion of the State of Israel in one of the most hostile and discriminatory forums to the Jewish state on earth. Haley declared that she would “take names” of countries who backed biased, bigoted and polarizing resolutions in the U.N. General Assembly, and promised that she would use her heels to “kick” the Jewish state’s enemies.
Israel, as many commentators have noted, has not had so great a champion at the world body since Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s tenure in the 1970s. As Haley heads towards the exit after tendering her resignation, she can do one more thing to advance Israel’s security, while acting firmly in America’s interests and instill some fear in its enemies: block an effort to abuse diplomatic immunity on behalf of Qatar.
In recent years, Qatar, largely isolated in its own region because of its support for terrorism and Iran, has been aggressively lobbying in Washington, D.C., to try and attempt to furnish its negative image in the portals of power. As part of its work, the Qataris allegedly hacked the emails of a diverse group of individuals ranging from Republican donor Elliott Broidy, an ex-CIA official, a Democratic Party operative and a “range from Syrian human-rights activists to Egyptian soccer players.”
Broidy was seen as an obstacle to Qatar’s nefarious ambitions. After his emails were hacked and disseminated by paid agents of Qatar’s government, Broidy hit back and sued his assailants and their agents in New York and California federal court.
According to Broidy’s lawsuit, the hacks, which began in December and spanned several weeks, sought to punish him for trying to frustrate Qatar’s multimillion-dollar lobbying efforts to burnish its image in the U.S. capital and court Jewish leaders. Qatar and a Washington attorney allegedly coordinated unflattering leaks to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News and other media outlets.
Chief among the accused leakers was Jamal Benomar, a former U.N. aide and Moroccan, who since his retirement has been in the employ of the Doha despots. Now that Broidy has slapped Benomar with a civil suit, Benomar has sought to quash legal action with a preposterous claim of diplomatic immunity. This underhanded maneuver has been supported by the government of Morocco, which has sought to accredit him as one of its diplomats at the United Nations. Shockingly, this status would apply retroactively; he sought this status after the lawsuit was filed and long after the alleged crimes were committed, which would prevent Broidy from seeking any redress at all.
Fortunately, it is within Ambassador Haley’s power to put an end to this charade. As U.N. ambassador, she heads the United States Mission at the international body, which has final say over whether Benomar will receive diplomatic immunity. While it might seem a small matter, Haley should trouble herself to intervene and turn back this cynical attempt to block Broidy’s access to the courts.
Americans should not be the victims of hacking from foreign governments, and certainly the American government should not actively or even passively help the perpetrators avoid the consequences of their actions and possible crimes.
There is also the larger geopolitical question.
Despite its moderate image, Qatar represents one of America and Israel’s greatest strategic enemies in the wider Middle East.
It is a premier funder of the Hamas and Hezbollah terror groups, and offers sanctuary in Doha to many of the exiled terrorist leaders. It has also weaponized Al Jazeera, its state broadcaster, to spread disinformation and smears against the state of Israel. This has included two documentaries—one in the United Kingdom and the other in the United States—purporting to show how the pro-Israel movement has some mysterious undue influence on foreign policy.
And that is to say nothing of its clandestine activities, which have included infiltrating and stealing the communications of U.S. citizens. This has led its neighbors in the Gulf states to institute a blockade against Qatar.
American policymakers should take off the gloves in dealing with the renegade emirate.
Moreover, why would Qatar try to influence the Jewish community, hack Republican stalwarts close to the president, and then claim diplomatic immunity for their agents?
According to FARA filings and a court deposition recently made public in the Broidy case with Joey Allaham, one of Qatar’s chief agents in the United States, HR2712, the Palestinian Terrorism International Support Prevention Act, was their true target. If successfully passed, this legislation would have required the U.S. government to label Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism, due to its hosting of Hamas and other terror organizations.
After the hack and the trips of American pro-Israel community officials visits to Qatar (in part organized by Benomar), the Qataris started leveraging their extensive congressional Rolodexes. They sought to disseminate the news of the blossoming friendship between Qatar and America’s Jewish leaders, rendering any association with terror an obvious impossibility, and the incentive to legislate against such an association (based on perceived need, efficacy and constituency pressure) disappeared.
Will Nikki Haley allow a state sponsor of terrorism to manipulate the U.S. legislative process, hack American citizens and then have the United States’s U.N. mission grant immunity to its agents?
Haley will be remembered as one of the Jewish state’s best friends in the American policy and political establishment. Additionally, as someone who has not ruled out once again running for public office, defending America’s interests, its legislature and its citizens from disreputable influence will be paramount. If her track record is any sign, picking up the phone and bringing down the hammer on Qatar should be no problem for her.
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum, an organization that promotes American interests in the Middle East.