By: Sam Weinberg  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: Nikki Haley’s History and Relationship with Israel

Former South Carolina Governor and ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley recently announced her candidacy for president in 2024. A political ally of former president Donald Trump, Haley is a rising figure in the current Republican Party and has gotten much attention in the last few years for statements at the U.N. A hallmark element of her history, which will be a large part of her campaign as the trail begins to heat up, is her staunch perspective on Israel and the United States’ relationship with it.

While South Carolina has a relatively small Jewish population, Haley prioritized passing hallmark legislation relating to the discussion surrounding the Jewish state. State Representative Alan Clemmons initiated a bill banning businesses that boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel from South Carolina. Speaking before the Knesset, Clemmons discussed drafting a resolution saying Israel wasn’t guilty of occupying any land and how even the Democrats in the State Assembly signed it. He noted Haley’s efforts specifically, calling her a “strong leader” who “partnered with our legislatures to sign the anti-BDS bill into law without delay.” It was the first bill of its kind at a state level, and many states followed suit.

Her support of the bill was a focal point for some who praised her appointment to the United Nations. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham called her “a strong supporter of the State of Israel” whose “presence as ambassador will be reassuring to all those who are concerned about the increasing hostility of the United Nations toward Israel.” Danny Danon, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations at the time, called her a “true friend of Israel” and acknowledged her work in fighting the BDS movement in her state.

As she began transitioning from her role as a state governor to the broader international position at the United Nations, her unwavering support for Israel only grew. Speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few weeks before her official appointment, Haley said that the U.N.’s failure to be consistent was most on display “against our close ally Israel,” noting the twenty resolutions against Israel compared to the six against the rest of the countries in the world combined in the most recent General Assembly. She lamented U.N. Resolution 2334, which had said Israel’s settlements had no legal validity and were flagrant violations of international law, calling it a “terrible mistake.” She again acknowledged her combatting the BDS movement in South Carolina and pledged to “never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States.”

Once occupying her post as ambassador, she spent much time in her first year cementing her relationship with Israel. She was a key speaker at 2017’s AIPAC Policy Conference, noting the similarities between her own Indian culture and Israeli culture. “We’re very close-knit. We love our families,” she explained. “We’re stubborn. And we don’t back down from a fight.” Haley spent time in June of 2017, telling Prime Minister Netanyahu she has no patience for bullies, a title she used to describe the United Nations.

In May of that year, she told the Christian Broadcasting Network that, while she didn’t “know what the policy of the administration is,” she believed “the Western Wall was part of Israel.” She explained that “the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved” there. At the time, many in the administration were against the move, including Defense Secretary James Mattis, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. President Trump officially ordered the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017.

Haley hasn’t just spoken about her disdain for the United Nations’ treatment of Israel but has actively sought to change elements of budgeting as a result of it. After the General Assembly voted against President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the United States negotiated a $285 million reduction to the United Nations. Haley proposed an even greater reassessment of foreign assistance for countries that vote against the United States’ policies, with a memo entitled “America First Foreign Assistance Policy” expressing a belief that such “foreign assistance should be reevaluated to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent to advance U.S. interests.” She has been outspoken against the UNRWA, the agency designed to grant aid to Palestinian refugees, calling it “among the most corrupt and counterproductive of all UN agencies.” Her website now calls the United Nations “corrupt and politically biased” and proudly acknowledges her views and policies on the UN.

She has been adamant in her opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. In January 2016, before her appointment to the United Nations, she said that the United States should “make international agreements that were celebrated in Israel and protested in Iran, not the other way around.” Politico referred to her as Trump’s “Iran Whisperer.” While Mattis and Tillerson asserted Iran complied with the agreement, she argued it made America less safe and gladly welcomed Trump’s decertification. In 2021, she called Iran the “sugar daddy of Hamas” and criticized AIPAC for keeping ties to Democrats who strongly supported the deal.

As the primary gets underway, Israel will be an issue where Republicans will tout their commitment. If and when the time for those discussions comes, Haley has much to point to to solidify her position as an intensely pro-Israel candidate.

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