Trump taps pro-Israel South Carolina governor to be UN envoy
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Trump taps pro-Israel South Carolina governor to be UN envoy

Nikki Haley last year signed legislation that bans boycott of Jewish state; appointment makes her first woman in top post in new administration

In this Nov. 15, 2016 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
In this Nov. 15, 2016 file photo, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump has chosen South Carolina’s pro-Israel governor Nikki Haley as US ambassador to the United Nations.

Haley has accepted the cabinet-level position, becoming the first woman tapped for a top-level administration post during his White House transition so far.

“Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a release Wednesday. “She is also a proven deal-maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals. She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

Last year, Haley brought in state-wide legislation that targets those supporting a boycott of Israel. Although the law does not mention Israel by name, it does state that public bodies “may not enter into a contract with a business… unless the contract includes a representation that the business is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the business will not engage in, the boycott of a person or an entity based in or doing business with a jurisdiction with whom South Carolina can enjoy open trade.”

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (left) talks about education with former Florida Governor and republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley (left) talks about education with former Florida Governor and republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush at the Heritage Action Presidential Candidate Forum September 18, 2015 in Greenville, South Carolina. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/AFP)

Haley has also accused President Barack Obama of not sufficiently supporting Israel. Speaking after his final State of the Union address in January, the governor said that if the Republicans were in power, they “would make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.’

An outspoken Trump critic throughout much of the presidential race, Haley will become the first female — and first nonwhite — cabinet-level official if confirmed by the Senate. She’s the daughter of Indian immigrants and is the second Asian-American to serve as a US governor.

“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the president-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next ambassador to the United Nations,” Haley is quoted as saying in Trump’s release.

Not all presidents have treated the ambassadorship to the UN as a cabinet-level position, and Republicans have tended not to grant that status.

After secretary of state — a job Trump has not yet filled — the ambassadorship is highest-profile diplomatic position, often serving as the voice for US positions on the international stage. As part of the cabinet, Haley would have more opportunity to shape US policies, rather than simply defend the administration’s positions.

Yet it could be an awkward role at times. Trump campaigned on the theme of “America first” and said he is skeptical about “international unions that tie us up and bring America down.” Trump has also described the United Nations as weak and incompetent.

Haley would be the third consecutive female US ambassador to the United Nations, after Susan Rice and Samantha Power, the current ambassador.

Haley’s new job clears the way for Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to step into the role of South Carolina governor. McMaster was an early Trump endorser, backing him before the state’s GOP primary in February.

At the time, Haley campaigned for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, before going on to support Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Bad blood between Trump and Haley was evident in interviews and on social media. “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!” Trump wrote on Twitter in March. Haley denounced several of Trump’s campaign comments and urged voters to “reject the siren call of the angriest voices.”

Still, Haley met with the president-elect last week at Trump Tower. Afterward, she said they’d had a “very nice” conversation.

A week ago while meeting with other Republican governors in Orlando, Haley described herself as “giddy” over the prospect of joining the Trump administration. She said she was heartened by his tone and inclusiveness after winning the election. “I hope he continues to do that, and I hope he continues to be disciplined in his comments.”

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon welcomed the appointment, saying, “Governor Haley is a longstanding and true friend of Israel and is an outspoken fighter against the BDS movement in her state, and throughout the US. I know that we at the Israeli Mission will continue to work in full partnership with our friends in the American Mission, as we further strengthen the special bond and shared values between Israel and the US.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition also praised the appointment on Wednesday and said, “Governor Nikki Haley is a brilliant choice to serve as our country’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Governor Haley is hardworking, smart, and has a strong world view that will represent the United States well on the global stage.”

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