Former US envoy Haley defends timing of Trump peace plan rollout
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Former US envoy Haley defends timing of Trump peace plan rollout

Ex-ambassador to UN, on Israel visit, says Washington could not wait any longer for Israel’s political deadlock to be resolved; hints at possible 2024 presidential run

Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during an interview with Israel's Channel 12 news, January 26, 2020. (Channel 12 news screenshot)
Former US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley during an interview with Israel's Channel 12 news, January 26, 2020. (Channel 12 news screenshot)

Former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley defended the imminent unveiling  of the US peace plan and rejected the idea that the Trump administration was trying to help out Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his campaign for the upcoming elections.

In an interview broadcast Sunday by Channel 12, Haley, who is visiting Israel, spoke about the long-awaited peace plan and her time in the UN, and hinted she could run for president in 2024.

US President Donald Trump is about to roll out the plan and meet with Netanyahu and his chief rival Blue and White party leader MK Benny Gantz in Washington in the next few days.

The timing of the release of the plan, which according to media reports is unprecedented in its concessions toward Israel, has led many politicians and commentators to say it appears to be an effort by the US leader to boost Netanyahu’s prospects ahead of the March 2 election.

Asked if publication of the peace plan is intended as a “political life-saver” for Netanyahu, Haley responded: “People are saying the same thing about Trump in the US and I don’t believe either to be true.”

Trump is in the middle of an impeachment trial.

She said the plan was worked on for a long time, with great care, and that there would always be some people would say “it was rolled out too soon or too late.”

“Israel is now going on its third election, it’s not like we could sit there and wait for those [repeated] elections to stop,” she said, referring to the political deadlock that has failed to produce a government in two previous votes.

Haley said she hoped the stalemate in Israel was resolved because she doesn’t want “the region to see Israel as vulnerable.”

Nikki Haley speaks at a UN Security Council Meeting on the Middle East on November 19, 2018 (Courtesy)

Of the peace plan, Haley said she had seen an earlier version and “it is well thought out.”

“It does not compromise national security for Israel, and it improves the quality of life for Palestinians,” she said. “I hope both sides will give it the opportunity it needs.”

Haley said the US had no intention of imposing the plan on either side, but was offering it as a way forward.

Haley, who stepped down in December 2018, won plaudits in Israel and among the pro-Israel community in the US while in office for her staunch backing of the Jewish state at the United Nations.

She admitted to Channel 12 she “didn’t know a lot about Israel” when she came to the UN but said that her goal was, “How do we change the culture?”

“What we can say is the session on Middle East is no longer an Israel-bashing session,” she said. “It now talks about the region.”

Haley, who has Indian parents, explained that her special connection to Israel comes from the similarities between Jewish and Indian culture.

“The more I learned, the more I loved [Israel], and I think it is because I feel kinship with the Jewish people,” she said. “They think very much like the Indian community; the education and family, the way of life is very similar.”

“I appreciate the desire to just want to be treated fairly,” she continued.

Former US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 26, 2019. (Oren Ben Hakon/Israel Hayom)

Her decision to leave her position at the UN was motivated by her desire to spend more time with her family, she said.

Haley speculated that she survived the Trump administration, which has seen officials at all levels abruptly leave or be dismissed, by always telling Trump what she really thought.

“I told the president the truth, regardless of the situation,” Haley said, adding that the president “always listened.”

Haley was in Israel to partner with the Israel Center on Addiction, a cause she strongly supports.

Quizzed on her view of Trump’s ongoing impeachment trial, she made it clear she believes the president is innocent. Trump is suspected of withholding military aide from Ukraine to pressure that country into investigating a Democrat presidential candidate, and then obstructing a congressional investigation into his actions.

Asked if she thought that Trump had done anything wrong, Haley did not hesitate in responding “no.”

Haley emphatically denied rumors that she was planning on replacing Mike Pence as Trump’s choice for vice president in the 2020 elections, but was cautiously open to the idea of running for president herself in 2024.

“It’s just too soon,” she said. “It’s easy for people to talk about it. It’s hard to do, it’s hard to run for president of the United States.”

“If it’s meant to be, it will,” she said.

Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, at Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem on June 7, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

Among the major American initiatives and moves at the UN during her tenure were the decision to pull out of the Human Rights Council, ending funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and defending US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Both Netanyahu and Gantz are scheduled to meet with Trump, separately and privately, in the White House on Monday. Netanyahu and Trump are set for a higher-profile meeting Tuesday.

The plan, which Trump said he would release before his second meeting with Netanyahu on Tuesday, is expected to strongly favor Israel, and is unlikely to garner any international support if it is seen as undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.

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