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Move Over Gal Gadot! Israel Gives UN Ambassador Nikki Haley A Hero’s Reception

America’s ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley rarely gets front-page coverage in the United States press.

But in Israel, the fiery former South Carolina governor enjoys superstar status — along the lines of that enjoyed by Israeli actress Gal Gadot, who’s starring in “Wonder Woman” — from a nation grateful for Haley’s robust defense of it on the international stage.

Haley landed in Tel Aviv Tuesday night, fresh from a stop in Geneva where she admonished the U.N. Human Rights Council members for their bias against Israel. Israeli press and government officials showered her with superlatives and front-page articles as she made her rounds in Jerusalem. Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, told a Chabad gathering in the nation’s capital the same evening that the days of Israeli isolation in the international body are coming to an end thanks to the new president in the White House and his new ambassador to the U.N.

“The critical thing we needed was a tailwind from the U.S. and now we have that in the form of Hurricane Haley,” Dermer said, “along with Hurricane Trump.” 

Haley’s straight-shooting style and her focus on a pro-Israel agenda at the U.N. have earned her so much goodwill from Israeli officials that they are willing to overlook what policy differences do exist. As a result, Israel adores Haley above all other American officials.

Israel Hayom, Israel’s pro-Netanyahu free daily, devoted most of its cover Tuesday to Haley, highlighting her threat to withdraw from the Human Rights Council if it does not end its bias against Israel. The Jerusalem Post, also leaning to the right in its editorial line, made Haley’s threat its headline.

As she opened her 3-day visit, Haley met with President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Netanyahu and delivered more of the trademark comments that have won the newly appointed ambassador the title of Israel’s strongest defender in the international body. “You know, all I’ve done is to tell the truth,” Haley said, standing alongside Rivlin in Jerusalem. “I have no patience for bullies, and the U.N. was being such a bully to Israel, because they could.”

It is these types of tough statements that have made Haley so beloved among Israelis, even though, as some former Obama administration officials noted, previous ambassadors have also worked hard to make the U.N. friendlier to Israel.

But when it comes to substance, Haley’s message, both before arriving in Israel and during her visit, included many positions that are not in line with the Netanyahu government. In Jerusalem, Haley intends to visit the Western Wall without the presence of Israeli officials, a move that Israel sees as undermining its claim for sovereignty in its capital. Haley has also made clear before arriving that now is not the time to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Israel has asked the Trump administration repeatedly to relocate the embassy to Israel and views such a move as affirmation of American support for Israel’s stake on the city. Haley also publicly differed with President Trump, as she declared that America still supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, days after Trump refused to commit to this idea as his preferred outcome of peace negotiations.

Now, Israel is trying to get Haley on board with an ambitious plan presented to her in Jerusalem: garnering support among members of the U.N. Security Council to revoke resolution 2334, passed in the final days of the Obama administration, which condemns Israel’s settlement activity. If Haley can pull off this task, she’s likely to cement her image as an Israeli heroine.

Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter @nathanguttman

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