Nikki Haley, Israel and the Politics of Diplomacy

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In January 2017, Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, acquired a telephone name from Nikki Haley, the previous governor of South Carolina and Donald Trump’s newly appointed ambassador to the United Nations.

Ms. Haley wished to apologize.

A month earlier, the U.N. Safety Council had handed a decision condemning Israel for constructing settlements within the West Financial institution. The Obama administration, by abstaining from the vote, had allowed the measure to cross, a parting rebuke to Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s more and more right-wing prime minister.

In her first telephone name to a fellow ambassador, Ms. Haley wished to be clear that issues could be totally different.

“She assured that it will not occur so long as she was serving as ambassador,” Mr. Danon recalled lately, “that she would get our again and help us.”

That promise would set the tone for a lot of Ms. Haley’s time on the U.N. Over her practically two-year tenure, she reworked herself from a international coverage novice to a blunt-talking stateswoman, making the protection of Israel her defining trigger.

Ms. Haley blocked a Palestinian envoy’s appointment and took credit score for forcing the withdrawal of a report that described the Israeli authorities’s therapy of Palestinians as “apartheid.” She walked out of a Safety Council assembly throughout a Palestinian official’s speech and criticized the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee help program, which she has since stated “makes use of American cash to feed Palestinian hatred of the Jewish state.”

She was an enthusiastic face of the Trump administration’s diplomatic largess towards Israel, and described herself as turning again the tide of “Israel-bashing” on the world physique.

Denizens of the U.N.’s New York headquarters started joking that Israel now had two ambassadors.

American ambassadors have usually stood with Israel on the U.N., however observers of Ms. Haley’s time there noticed one thing new in her typically confrontational advocacy for the Trump administration’s no-questions help for Mr. Netanyahu’s authorities.

Critics have famous the political comfort of her method — which ingratiated her with Mr. Trump’s internal circle and cemented relationships with main Republican donors and evangelical leaders — in addition to its made-for-television tenor.

“I put on heels,” she informed the viewers at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in 2017. “It’s not for a style assertion. It’s as a result of if I see one thing improper, we’re going to kick them each single time.” A clip of the assertion appeared in a video teasing her presidential marketing campaign early this 12 months.

“There was all the time a transparent distinction between her comparatively pragmatic method to most points and an extremely performative, purist method to diplomacy relating to Israel,” stated Richard Gowan, the U.N. director of the Worldwide Disaster Group.

As Israel plunges into a brand new warfare within the Gaza Strip, after a surprising wave of assaults by Hamas fighters, this chapter of Ms. Haley’s profession has taken on a sudden significance.

Ms. Haley, one of many few candidates with a international coverage document to run on, has solid herself as an unwavering Israel hawk whose views are grounded in expertise. Final weekend, Ms. Haley urged Mr. Netanyahu to “end” Hamas. Throughout an look on “Meet the Press,” she recalled her 2017 go to to Hamas-dug tunnels close to the Gaza border.

When Mr. Trump criticized Mr. Netanyahu — who angered him by recognizing Joseph R. Biden’s victory in 2020 — Ms. Haley used the second to bolster her case in opposition to her former boss.

“To go and criticize the pinnacle of a rustic who simply noticed large bloodshed — no, that’s not what we’d like in a president,” she stated at a information convention in Harmony, N.H., on Friday.

Ms. Haley, who declined to remark for this text, has seen a current uptick in polling, though she continues to run far behind Mr. Trump. As a brand new battle pushes world affairs to the foreground of the marketing campaign, this can be her finest probability to emerge because the main Republican different to the previous president.

“This was all the time political capital that she was banking whereas she was on the U.N.,” Mr. Gowan stated. “And it could repay for her now.”

In interviews, shut observers of Ms. Haley’s work — veterans of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, the Trump White Home and State Division, United Nations officers, and international coverage lobbyists and consultants — described it in related phrases.

They recalled a diplomat who shortly turned a extra pragmatic negotiator than her personal accounts of her tenure, which are likely to concentrate on her confrontations, prompt. Additionally they remembered her as a politician: somebody who understood the United Nations put up as a stopover on a trajectory towards larger issues.

Ms. Haley was not enamored with the trivialities of diplomacy. She requested that workers minimize down background papers to a single web page of speaking factors, written in “eighth-grade English.” In her first tackle to her new staff, the ambassador informed them she wished to create a humane and environment friendly workplace tradition, insisting that no one’s work ought to preserve them on the workplace after 6 p.m. — a tall order for an establishment the place conferences typically bumped into the night, and diplomatic crises at uncommon hours had been virtually a each day occasion.

Ms. Haley additionally had a eager eye for what one former mission workers member described as “set items”: the confrontations and dramatic gestures that might achieve consideration.

The primary such second for Ms. Haley arrived solely days into her tenure. In early February 2017, António Guterres, the U.N. secretary basic, was getting ready to call Salam Fayyad, the previous prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, because the U.N.’s particular envoy to Libya. Mr. Fayyad was a well-regarded reformer who had been seen as a key Palestinian accomplice for each america and Israel. Mr. Guterres had acquired casual signoffs from the Safety Council members. His workplace had ready a information launch.

However half an hour earlier than the deadline for objections, Ms. Haley knowledgeable him that she thought of Mr. Fayyad unacceptable.

“We thought that this should be a mistake,” stated Jeffrey Feltman, an American diplomat who on the time was Mr. Guterres’s underneath secretary basic for political affairs. The appointment had been vetted, and State Division officers had vouched for Mr. Fayyad, he stated.

The choice had been Ms. Haley’s, her workers has since stated, although Mr. Trump accredited it. In an announcement on the time, she argued that appointing a Palestinian to a major U.N. place could be tantamount to recognizing Palestinian statehood. “America doesn’t presently acknowledge a Palestinian state or help the sign this appointment would ship throughout the United Nations,” she stated.

“Primarily, she punished Salam Fayyad for his nationality, on the identical time she was criticizing the U.N. for punishing Israelis for his or her nationality,” Mr. Feltman stated. “It appeared to me to be fairly hypocritical.”

Talking earlier than an viewers of Israel supporters on the AIPAC convention the next month, Ms. Haley solid the transfer extra provocatively, taking credit score for having Mr. Fayyad “booted out” of the U.N. put up, and portraying the choice as a response to a tradition of “Israel-bashing” on the group. She introduced that until issues modified, “there aren’t any freebies for the Palestinian Authority anymore.”

Earlier than arriving on the U.N., Ms. Haley had a scant document on Israel coverage. She has described her help for the nation as “a matter of religion” — raised Sikh, she later transformed to Christianity — and in contrast her personal cultural background because the baby of Indian immigrants to that of Israelis’. “We’re aggressive, we’re cussed and we don’t again down from a battle,” she stated in 2017.

Her important declare was that because the governor of South Carolina, she signed a invoice in 2015 banning the state from doing enterprise with corporations that boycotted or divested from Israel.

Such legal guidelines — South Carolina’s was the second, after Illinois — had that 12 months turn out to be a spotlight of pro-Israel political donors, together with Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas on line casino magnate and backer of the Republican Jewish Coalition, who wielded monumental affect within the G.O.P. and in Israel earlier than his dying in 2021.

Ms. Haley’s marketing campaign stated the she didn’t talk about the difficulty with Mr. Adelson on the time. In 2016, Mr. Adelson contributed $250,000 to Ms. Haley’s political motion committee — 1 / 4 of the contributions it acquired that 12 months — and hosted her in his luxurious field on the Republican Nationwide Conference in Cleveland.

Arriving on the United Nations six months later, Ms. Haley shortly turned the face of Mr. Trump’s Center East coverage, which mirrored the long-held goals of pro-Israel hard-liners in addition to conservative evangelicals, who ascribe nice theological significance to the rise of a contemporary Jewish state within the Holy Land.

“There’s been a historic stress between Zionism and a perception that america had an obligation to be an trustworthy dealer between Israel and the Palestinians,” stated Ralph Reed, the chairman of the Religion and Freedom Coalition. “Below Trump, we moved on, and now the G.O.P. tilts unapologetically pro-Israel.”

Ms. Haley leaned into her function on the U.N. as the general public defender of the administration’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, its help for increasing West Financial institution settlements and its determination to maneuver the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

After the U.N. Common Meeting handed a decision condemning the embassy transfer, Ms. Haley hosted a reception on the U.S. Mission, refusing to ask the 21 international locations — together with longtime American allies like Britain, France, Germany and Japan — who voted for the measure.

“America will bear in mind this present day,” she warned.

Some who watched her work up shut detected much less absolutism in her views, and her diplomacy, than she offered on the Common Meeting and in interviews.

Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N.’s particular coordinator for the Center East peace course of on the time, recalled touring in Israel to the Gaza border with Ms. Haley. “I feel that journey actually opened her eyes to the truth that there are two competing narratives, two competing realities on this state of affairs,” he stated.

“Regardless of the public speeches she made,” he added, “after we sat down to speak, she would say, ‘OK, what can we do about this?’”

Palestinian supporters, nevertheless, noticed a rhetorical escalation, even by the requirements of a resolutely pro-Israel Republican Get together.

“You take a look at a few of her statements and actions, it was comically excessive — not simply willingness to help Israel, however a willingness to harm Palestinians,” stated Yousef Munayyer, who directs the Palestine/Israel Program on the Arab Heart Washington D.C.

Her public performances served her nicely within the typically vicious inner politics of the administration. Amid a divide between international coverage traditionalists — the long-résuméd appointees typically solid because the “adults within the room” — and the coterie of Trump confidants who largely drove his Center East coverage, Ms. Haley aligned herself with the latter group.

Her Israel advocacy gave her frequent trigger with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, who had been tasked with the Center East coverage portfolio.

When Mr. Kushner and others started drafting the White Home’s Center East peace plan, Ms. Haley was one among solely a handful of policymakers allowed to see it and supply feedback, stated Jason Greenblatt, Mr. Trump’s particular envoy for Center East peace.

“I believed she was one among my most necessary allies,” he stated.

Ms. Haley’s work additionally received accolades from evangelicals and Jewish Republican donors, key constituencies for any aspiring Republican president. Her U.N. tenure was lined carefully by the Christian Broadcasting Community, the evangelical-oriented media firm.

“Clearly God is utilizing Nikki Haley for such a time as this,” the community’s anchor, David Brody, stated in a June 2017 segment, over footage of Ms. Haley praying on the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

In 2018, Christians United for Israel, the influential Christian Zionist group led by the televangelist John C. Hagee, offered Ms. Haley with the group’s Defender of Israel award. As she neared the tip of her speech, somebody within the crowd yelled: “Haley 2024!”

However early polling has proven that Mr. Haley is struggling to peel away evangelical voters from Mr. Trump. Though Mr. Hagee provided a prayer at her marketing campaign launch occasion, he has not endorsed her.

“Most evangelicals definitely respect Nikki Haley’s pro-Israel stance,” stated Robert Jeffress, the influential pastor of the First Baptist Dallas megachurch. “However evangelicals additionally notice that her pro-Israel coverage whereas she was U.N. ambassador was a mirrored image of Donald Trump’s pro-Israel place.”

Amongst distinguished Jewish Republican donors, she has extra vocal allies. Towards the tip of Ms. Haley’s time on the U.N., Fred Zeidman, a Texas businessman, made her a promise. “I informed her if she ever wished to run for president of america, I used to be going to be together with her from Day 1,” recalled Mr. Zeidman, who served as Jewish outreach director for the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney, John McCain and George W. Bush.

In March, Mr. Zeidman and two like-minded donors, Phil Rosen and Cheryl Halpern, wrote to the members of the Republican Jewish Coalition urging them to again Haley, citing her U.N. document.

However a majority of the group’s benefactors haven’t but contributed to any candidate. “They don’t see any motive to actively give if you’ve acquired 9 folks on the market,” Mr. Zeidman stated.

Mr. Zeidman and different Haley supporters hope that Republicans looking for an alternative choice to Mr. Trump will coalesce behind her candidacy. However regardless of Ms. Haley’s current indicators of momentum, the gulf between her and Mr. Trump stays daunting.

“If she would’ve run in Israel,” Mr. Danon, the previous Israeli ambassador, stated, “I’m certain it will’ve been a lot simpler for her.”