Nikki Haley, who announced on Tuesday that she will resign from her position as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, was praised by several pro-Israel organizations as a steadfast defender of the Jewish state.
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, called Haley’s resignation “a huge loss … a loss for the pro-Israel world and a loss for American foreign policy. She has been a tremendous friend.”
Haley’s surprise announcement raised questions about her political future, including the possibility of her challenging incumbent President Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
Haley, who denied on Tuesday that she plans to run for president in two years, served a key role in advocating the administration’s policy goals on Iran, North Korea, and other international issues.
“She was a main factor in putting the Palestinians on notice that if they don’t change their pro-terrorist policies, they will get nothing” in financial support from the Trump administration, said Klein. “She has created a situation where the Palestinians seriously should consider their stances and policies.”
Klein last year was critical of Haley’s remarks in favor of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and against the establishment of Jewish settlements on the West Bank.
“I’m still critical of those stances,” Klein said, adding, “overall she’s been a blessing in exposing the Arab [political and financial] war against Israel.”
Klein said Haley will “be greatly missed” as the U.S. voice at the U.N., unless she is replaced by Richard Grenell, current U.S. ambassador to Germany. Grenell, a frequent visitor to Israel, has taken public positions on the Middle East similar to Haley’s and is considered sympathetic to the Israeli position.
Grenell, reportedly on “the short list” to succeed Haley, “is of the same mold” as Haley, Klein said. “There are few people who would come up to her level of competence and courage.”
Haley has “done a fantastic job and we’ve done a fantastic job together,” Trump said Tuesday in an Oval Office appearance with Haley. “We’ve solved a lot of problems and we’re in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
The president said he will name a replacement in the next two or three weeks for Haley, who plans to leave the U.N. by the end of the year.
As arguably the most outspoken and visible pro-Israel U.N. ambassador since Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the 1970s, Haley quickly became a darling of conservative Jews and supporters of Israel in the United States, including AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee. She earned the praise of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called her a “tsunami of fresh air.”
During Trump’s presidential campaign, she criticized his behavior, warning that his tendency to speak out against critics harmed the country’s diplomatic efforts.
Although she did not support Trump’s presidential candidacy at first, she served as a loyal defender at the U.N., stating that while she didn’t “agree with the president on everything,” she would “pick up the phone and call him or meet with him in person” when a disagreement arose.
The South Carolina-born daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, Haley, a Christian, served as governor of South Carolina and a member of the state’s legislature; she had minimal foreign policy experience before taking the U.N. post.
As U.N. ambassador, with an eye reportedly on eventually seeking higher office, she quickly established a reputation as an unyielding advocate of the Trump administration’s foreign policy objectives, strengthening this country’s relationship with Israel, which some observers said had weakened during the presidency of Barack Obama.
A defender of Israel and a critic of the U.N.’s “anti-Israel bias,” which was expressed through its frequent resolutions criticizing Israel, Haley declared that the U.S. would “not turn a blind eye to this anymore” and pledged the nation’s “ironclad support” for Israel.
Haley helped coordinate the U.S. exit from the U.N. Human Rights Council and from UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, both of which were highly critical of Israel. She also played a key role in reducing the administration’s funding to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, and in blocking the appointment of former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad as the U.N.’s envoy to Libya. She backed Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and made clear that the U.S. would not abstain “when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel.”
“She’s absolutely the greatest hero or heroine” representing the U.S. in the U.N., “possibly meeting or exceeding the greatness of Daniel Patrick Moynihan,” said Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, a former political aide to Republicans and Democrats, who is active in several local Jewish and pro-Israel organizations. “She brought a level of dignity [accorded] to Israel, using her forceful personality and American might, refusing to let Israel be treated as the lowest element of the United Nations.”
Norm Coleman, chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, in a statement on Tuesday praised Haley “for the bold leadership and moral clarity she brought to the U.N.”
Haley, Coleman said, “has been instrumental in reclaiming American leadership on the global stage, in stark contrast to the previous eight years. Her leadership on confronting Iran, North Korea, and the audacious biases against Israel represent a new high-water mark for U.S. diplomacy. Our country is better because of her service.”
Steve Lipman is a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication.