(December 20, 2018 / JNS) When Nikki Haley was appointed in November 2016 by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to serve as America’s ambassador to the United Nations, I wrote that there was reason to hope she would live up to the legacies of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick and John Bolton as “shining beacons in the Midtown Manhattan snake pit.”
Although Haley, the governor of South Carolina at the time, was not well-known beyond the confines of her state, her personal and political history appeared to indicate that she possessed what I called the “kind of clarity on controversial issues that is required in an arena filled with people whose key purpose is to cloud the distinction between good and evil.”
Four months later, when Haley emerged from her first encounter with the U.N. Security Council and blasted its anti-Israel bias, I was even more optimistic that she had what it took “to navigate the Orwellian universe in which the U.N. operates, where Western values are on a lower hierarchical rung than Third World culture, and where a mockery is made of the concept of human rights.”
From that moment on, Haley continued to exceed expectations. She not only served as a proud and fierce defender of American interests in the world, but did so in her own dignified and powerful voice. Indeed, she made the office her own. It is an accomplishment whose significance cannot be overstated.
Her announcement on Oct. 9 that she would be leaving her post at the end of the year was thus a shock and a disappointment, particularly for Israelis. Her popularity in the Jewish state was on full display at this year’s Fourth of July celebration in Tel Aviv, where the mere mention of her name during U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s speech elicited such screeching cheers that one might have mistaken the event for a rock concert.
The ovation was well-deserved. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted upon learning of her resignation, Haley “led the uncompromising struggle against hypocrisy at the U.N., and on behalf of the truth and justice of our country.”
Indeed. But that’s not the only extraordinary thing about her. Unlike most people on their way out of a job, she did not slack off for a second. If anything, she upped her game. Her farewell speech at the monthly meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 18 was just as memorable, if not more, than her previous addresses. The gist of her words—a preview of Trump’s yet-to-be-revealed Mideast peace plan—was that the Palestinians have been abused by their leaders and misled by members of the international community.
The United Nations disproportionate obsession with Israel, she said, has “sent a loud and false message to the Palestinians that they just might be able to achieve their goals by relying on the U.N., rather than through direct negotiations. And it has sent a loud and accurate message to the Israelis that they can never trust the U.N.”
She went on: “Israel is a thriving, strong, prosperous country. It has always wanted peace with its neighbors. It has clearly demonstrated its willingness to make big sacrifices for peace, including giving up large areas of land. But Israel will not make a peace agreement at just any price, and it shouldn’t. No U.N. resolutions, anti-Semitic boycotts or terrorist threats will ever change that. Throughout its existence, and even today, Israel has been surrounded by threats to its security. It would be foolish for it to make a deal that weakened its security. And yet, even in the face of constant threats, Israel has become one of the leading nations in the world. Israel wants a peace agreement, but it doesn’t need one.
“ … It is time we faced a hard truth: Both sides would benefit greatly from a peace agreement, but the Palestinians would benefit more, and the Israelis would risk more.
“ … Ultimately, as always, the final decisions can only be made by the parties themselves. Israelis and Palestinians will decide their own futures.
“ … But, my friends at the United Nations, in particular my Arab and European brothers and sisters, will … face the same choice … between a hopeful future that sheds the tired, old and unrealistic demands of the past or a darker future that sticks with the proven failed talking points of the past.
“… To my Arab friends, … [y]ou’ve said that you know a solution is urgently needed. But your governments have not been willing to talk to your constituencies about what is realistic or to the Palestinian leadership about the harm they’re doing to their very own people.
“ … As for the American people, we have demonstrated time and again our commitment to peace in the Middle East. We will continue to offer our hand in friendship to the Palestinian people, whom we have financially supported by far more than any other country has done. The Palestinians have everything to gain by engaging in peace negotiations. But whatever it is that others decide, the world must know that America will remain steadfast in our support of Israel, its people, and its security. That is an unshakeable bond between our two peoples. And it is that bond—more than anything else—that makes peace possible.”
Yes, Nikki Haley not only has lived up to the legacies of other great U.N. ambassadors, she has surpassed them. In a mere two years, she has managed to rattle the “Midtown Manhattan snake pit” in a way that no one before her has done.
I wish her successor, Heather Nauert, the best of luck. But I sure don’t envy her having to fill those particular shoes.
Ruthie Blum is an Israel-based journalist and author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’ ”