UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is tendering her resignation, marking the latest shake-up in the turbulent Trump administration just weeks before the midterm election.
US President Donald Trump met with Haley at the Oval Office in front of news cameras shortly after reports of her resignation Tuesday, saying the departure had been planned for several months.
Trump said she would leave at the end of the year.
He called Haley a “very special” person, adding that she told him six months ago that she might want to take some time off. Trump said that together, they had “solved a lot of problems.”
Speaking after Trump, Haley said serving as ambassador to the UN has “been an honor of a lifetime.”
She cited pushing back against the anti-Israel bias at the UN as one of the key accomplishments of her tenure. She praised Trump for moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
“They get it when the president says he means business,” she said. “If you look at the anti-Israel bias and the strength and courage the president showed in moving the embassy.”
Haley also pointed to her work with Jared Kushner, Trump’s special adviser and son-in-law, on the Trump administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
“Looking at what we’ve done on the Middle East peace plan. It is so unbelievably well done,” she said. “Jared is such a hidden genius that no one understands.”
She insisted that she was going out on a high and would remain loyal to Trump.
“Countries may not like what we do but they respect what we do,” she said, echoing the president’s often-stated aim to make the US a more muscular presence on the international stage.
She listed hawkish policies to pressure Iran and the Palestinians, and the groundbreaking diplomatic outreach to North Korea.
“All of those things have made a huge difference in the US standing, but I can tell you that the US is strong again. The US is strong in a way it should make all Americans proud,” Haley said.
Haley said she had no plans to run for the White House in 2020.
The move apparently came as a shock to Congressional and Trump administration officials, with Haley keeping her plans to a small circle until Tuesday morning.
In a resignation latter shared later Tuesday, she said she wanted to return to the private sector.
“As a businessman, I expect you will appreciate my sense that returning from government to the private sector is not a step down but a step up,” she wrote.
Nikki Haley Resignation Letter by on Scribd
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, thanked Haley for her support of Israel, which he said helped change the Jewish state’s status at the world body.
“Thank you for standing with the truth without fear. Thank you for representing the values common to Israel and the United States,” he said in a statement.
“Wherever you are, you will continue to be a true friend of the State of Israel,” Danon added.
Haley was a star in the center-right pro-Israel community, consistently earning the loudest plaudits at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference.
“Her departure was unanticipated and took the pro-Israel community by surprise,” Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition CEO, said on Twitter. “Stunned and shocked by the surprise resignation of @nikkihaley as UN Amb. She was a consequential and impactful force at the UN.”
Haley downplayed reports of tensions between her and Trump. Born to immigrants from India, she comes from the wing of the Republican Party that favors a robust interventionist foreign policy, while Trump is an isolationist.
During her tenure, the US pulled out of the UN’s cultural agency and the Human Rights Council, citing their bias against Israel.
The US in August also announced it would end funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, criticizing its “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries,” referencing to the fact that the agency grants refugee status to all the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees, something not granted by the UN to refugees from any other places.
A former governor of South Carolina, Haley was seen as a surprise pick for ambassador to the UN in light of her criticism of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign and lack of foreign policy credentials.
Last month Haley wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post discussing her policy disagreements but also her pride in working for Trump. It came in response to an anonymous essay in The New York Times by a senior administration official that alleged there to be a secret “resistance” effort from the right in Trump’s administration and that there were internal discussions of invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump from office.
“I proudly serve in this administration, and I enthusiastically support most of its decisions and the direction it is taking the country,” Haley wrote. “But I don’t agree with the president on everything.”
As governor, she developed a national reputation as a racial conciliator who led the charge to bring down the Confederate flag at the Statehouse and guided South Carolina through one of its darkest moments, the massacre at a black church.
JTA contributed to this report.