WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for UN ambassador blasted the Obama administration for not blocking a UN Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements as illegal and backed moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, while explicitly stating she supported a two-state solution and recognizing settlements “can hinder peace.”
In her confirmation hearing Wednesday, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee she will work to reassert the message in the international body that the United States stands by Israel as an ally, a rebuke to the handling of outgoing President Barack Obama’s team.
“I will not go to New York and abstain when the UN seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel,” she said, referring to provision UNSC Resolution 2334 that calls for states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”
That language, Israel fears, will lead to a surge in boycott and sanctions efforts and one Israeli official warned it would provide “a tailwind for terror.”
While she spent a great portion of her time Wednesday condemning the United Nations for what she described as its unfair and biased treatment of the Jewish state — an “ultimate low,” she described– she stated she would continue to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When asked if she viewed the settlement enterprise in the context that bipartisan consensus on Washington has long held — that it is an obstacle to reaching a two-state deal — she answered in the warily affirmative.
“I do understand how they think that can hinder peace,” she said.
But Haley also voiced support for moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a shift firmly endorsed by Donald Trump but one that many fear could trigger more violence in the Middle East.
Haley said she “absolutely” backs the embassy move because that’s what the Israeli government and congressional Republicans advocate. “Not only is that what Israel wants,” she said, but also “this Congress has said that is what they support.”
Since the US allowed passage of the Security Council motion that labeled settlements “a flagrant violation of international law,” both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have taken to the interview circuit to articulate their vision of how settlements are eroding the possibility of a two-state outcome.
Kerry also delivered a comprehensive speech outlying his principles for reaching a deal.
When asked by Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (D) if the Trump administration would hold that view, as every American administration has since 1967, she told him she “has not heard anything different.”
Nevertheless, she sought to be unequivocal in her disapproval of how the UN has used its leverage as a world body to influence the way Israelis and Palestinians can resolve their decades-long dispute.
“It is an obsession that they have with Israel where they don’t have with North Korea, where they don’t have with Syria,” she said of the Security Council. “We have to look at the fact and call out the fact.”
“I would never have abstained,” Haley later added on UNSC Resolution 2334. “I think that that was the moment where we should’ve told the world how we stand with Israel.”
Also asked to weigh in on Republican calls to defund the United Nations in light of its passing the recent resolution, Haley expressed her disagreement with such a tactic. “I do not believe we need to pull money from the UN. I do not believe in slash and burn,” she said.
But she also said that “any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers.”
Haley’s comments come a week after South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) introduced legislation to defund the United Nations.
The US government gives the United Nations roughly $8 billion in both mandatory payments and voluntary contributions each year, with at least $3 billion going to its regular and peacekeeping budgets. Those funds make up 22 percent of the UN’s financial resources, more than any other country contributes.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon promptly welcomed Haley’s testimony Wednesday, before she even finished.
“We thank Ambassador-designate Haley, a true friend of Israel, for her unequivocal support and her clear statement regarding the UN’s discrimination against Israel,” he said.
“We look forward to working together with her to undo the damage done by the shameful Security Council resolution, and to lead towards a new era at the UN which includes real reforms that will put an end to the biased obsession with Israel.”