New ambassador makes clear change has arrived.
The Trump administration’s U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has hit the ground running. She spoke truth to power by strongly calling out the United Nations for its anti-Israel bias and double standards. Her predecessor, Samantha Power, never came close.
After attending her first regular meeting of the UN Security Council devoted to the Middle East, including the Palestinian-Israeli situation, Ambassador Haley remarked to reporters, “The first thing I want to do is talk about what we just saw in there.” Calling the meeting “a bit strange,” Ambassador Haley noted how the focus of blame for everything that has gone wrong in the Middle East seemed to be placed almost entirely on Israel.
“The discussion was not about Hezbollah’s illegal build-up of rockets in Lebanon,” Ambassador Haley said. “It was not about the money and weapons Iran provides to terrorists. It was not about how we defeat ISIS. It was not about how we hold Bashar al-Assad accountable for the slaughter of hundreds and thousands of civilians. No, instead, the meeting focused on criticizing Israel, the one true democracy in the Middle East. I am new around here, but I understand that’s how the Council has operated, month after month, for decades. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I’m here to emphasize the United States is determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias.”
Ambassador Haley was speaking against the backdrop of the anti-Israel Security Council Resolution 2334 passed last December, which the Obama administration refused to veto. “We will never repeat the terrible mistake of Resolution 2334 and allow one-sided Security Council resolutions to condemn Israel,” Ambassador Haley declared. “The outrageously biased resolutions from the Security Council and the General Assembly only make peace harder to attain by discouraging one of the parties from going to the negotiating table.”
How refreshing it is to hear such sincere words of support for Israel after eight years of Israel-bashing by the Obama administration. Former Ambassador Power had hypocritically mouthed some formulaic acknowledgements of bias against Israel in the Security Council and other UN forums, but while contributing strongly to that bias herself.
Resolution 2334 reeks of such bias. Yet Power strongly defended the Obama administration’s decision to abstain rather than veto it. The resolution outrageously declared that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.” When it came to the resolution’s call to prevent “acts of terror” and “to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric,” the resolution referred elliptically to “both parties.” Power could not defend why the resolution failed to call out the Palestinian Authority or Hamas by name for committing acts of terror, incitement to violence and glorification of terrorists. Her lame explanation to reporters at her farewell UN press conference was that Resolution 2334 “was not our resolution, so I think you can probably pose those questions to the people who were negotiating the text.” Of course, she could have insisted on including such specific references to Palestinian terror and incitement to violence in violation of international law in the resolution itself as a condition for a U.S. abstention. She didn’t. Instead, add a display of moral cowardice to Power’s list of “accomplishments” during her tenure as UN ambassador.
Things will be different from now on. And it is not just a change in words and tone. Expect concrete actions demonstrating the Trump administration’s moral clarity in holding the UN organization to account.
For example, Ambassador Haley objected to the proposed appointment of the Palestinian Authority's former Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to become the next UN envoy to Libya. Palestine is not a full member of the United Nations. It is just an observer state. Israel, on the other hand, is a full member state. Yet the new UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, sought to elevate a Palestinian official to a high UN Secretariat post, while Israel has been denied the opportunity to fill such a position. Inner City Press has reported that, according to its sources, “the nomination was really by Jeffrey Feltman, the Obama administration's appointee to head the UN Department of Political Affairs.” Feltman served previously as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs in the Obama administration. Through Feltman, the former Obama administration would still have someone inside the UN bureaucracy to further enhance the Palestinians' favorable position at the UN at the expense of Israel. But this appointment was not to be.
Shortly after Salam Fayyad’s proposed appointment was announced, Ambassador Haley issued a statement, which read in part: “The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations, however, we encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution. Going forward the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”
Evidently, that was enough to block the appointment. The Palestine Liberation Organization protested, of course. It’s not used to rejection at the United Nations.
Other actions appear to be underway or are soon to come. Late last year, during the waning days of the Obama administration, the UN General Assembly approved funding for compiling a blacklist of private Israeli companies doing business in the “occupied” territories. Samantha Power claimed the Obama administration objected to the blacklist project, but did nothing to stop it from proceeding. Less than a month after President Trump took office and Nikki Haley became the U.S.’s new UN ambassador, it was reported that the anti-Israel United Nations Human Rights Council decided to delay the publication of a report in connection with establishing the database of Israeli companies with business links to settlements in the West Bank until some unspecified time later this year. There is now a good chance the database will not see the light of day.
Blank checks for the UN’s multiple pro-Palestinian programs may finally become a thing of the past. Ambassador Haley singled out the UN Department of Political Affairs – still headed by the former Obama administration Assistant Secretary of State, Jeffrey Feltman - for having "an entire division devoted to Palestinian affairs." She added, “There is no division devoted to illegal missile launches from North Korea. There is no division devoted to the world’s number one state-sponsor of terror, Iran. The prejudiced approach to Israeli-Palestinian issues does the peace process no favors. And it bears no relationship to the reality of the world around us.”
As governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley had a reputation for being a strong fiscal conservative. The United Nations is on notice that as UN ambassador of the country paying a disproportionate amount of the total UN budget, Ambassador Haley will continue to be a fiscal conservative with American taxpayers' money. She will aim to sharply reduce the rampant waste in the UN budget, perhaps starting with the often overlapping, over-the-top pro-Palestinian agencies and programs the UN has established over the years.