Six months after President Trump took office, his newly-appointed ambassador to the UN and former South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, concluded a tour around Israel and the occupied West Bank with a hopeful tweet, featuring Haley with UNRWA female refugee students. She had discussed their “dreams and hopes.”
This morning we visited an UNRWA refugee camp & had the chance to talk with girls & women about their lives, their hopes, & their dreams. pic.twitter.com/7CSvnu2xHG— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) June 8, 2017
Back then, Haley and Trump’s peace team was appealing to Palestinians, casting themselves as a somewhat serious team trying to find a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But any hope we Palestinians might have had in this team was extremely short lived.
In her less than two-year term, Haley spoke twice at AIPAC to declare blind support for Israel, which in practice means the Netanyahu-led government. She repeatedly pledged to shield Israel from any criticism, further empowering Netanyahu’s fanatical cabinet and leaving their dangerous ambitions unchecked.
In December 2017, Haley stood on the UN platform to defend Trump’s highly-controversial decision to move the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel without extracting any price in return and permanently obliterating any chance for peace during Trump’s presidency.
For the first time in the history of the United Nations, Haley attempted to intimidate member states and threatened harsh consequences such as cutting aid and defunding key programs if they were to vote against the embassy move — and if they were to vote for it, Haley promised to invite representatives for a reception celebration.
That wasn’t the only time Haley exposed the hegemonic power structure weakening the United Nations’ ability as a global governance institution to take serious action. But it was then that she destroyed whatever hope was left for Palestinians to take their struggle to global platforms.
On the eve of May 15th, a day after more than 63 Palestinians were killed by IDF fire, Haley blasted the United Nations’ criticism of Israel’s actions as “one-sided” and stormed out of the room as soon as it was the Palestinian representative’s turn to address the council.
A few days later, the next victim in Gaza was a female paramedic, Razan al-Najar. When the Security Council reconvened on the matter, Haley again came out as Israel’s committed defender, despite the innocent lives lost. She vetoed a resolution calling for protecting defenseless Gazan protesters and instead called for a vote on a resolution of her own that held Gazans and Hamas solely responsible for their death and misery.
The results were terribly disappointing for Haley, who only got her own vote, but she nevertheless continued to act as Israel’s proxy, undeterred by failure.
Shortly after this gathering came another announcement from Haley, who spent more than a year trying to bully and intimidate the Human Rights Council to turn a blind eye to Netanyahu’s policies. Who could have predicted that Haley and the Trump administration would go so far as to withdraw from the United Nations Human Rights Council, just so it could protect Israel from any accountability?
It is Israel most of all that will suffer from this reckless move, enabling Netanyahu’s extreme right wing cabinet to ever-more troubling right-wing ambitions, most recently embodied by the discriminatory nation-state law.
And yet, Haley seemed more interested in appealing to the Israeli right and the right-wing pro-Israeli community in the US than in Israel’s sustainability and the survival of peace with Palestine.
Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat slammed Haley repeatedly as “the ambassador of hatred” amid a PA official boycott of the Trump peace team. Erekat stated that the only way the PA would be willing to deal with Haley and the rest of the Trump team would be if Netanyahu appointed them as the Israeli negotiating team instead of allowing them to proclaim to be an “unbiased mediator.”
Ambassador Haley isn’t the only US Ambassador to the UN who desperately worked on Israel’s behalf to rise to greater authority. Late Senator Daniel Moynihan accumulated a political fortune in the 1970s as US Ambassador to the UN through adherently siding with Israel against the entire world at the expense of Palestinians. His speech in 1975 was described by the pro-Israeli lobby group “UNWatch” group as “the greatest speech ever delivered at the UN.”
Ambassador Haley’s last footprint in office was mobilizing support to liquidate the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), which functions as the Palestinians’ mechanical ventilation system, unless the latter is dramatically reformed by disavowing and obliterating the refugee status of 6 million Palestinian refugees.
Today, as Ambassador Haley leaves office, she ends a two-year-long nightmare for the Palestinians and for those hopeful to reach a peaceful settlement in the Israeli Palestinians conflict. However, with President Trump still in office, and his avowedly pro-Israeli right-wing administration, one can only expect that the next US ambassador to the UN will be as terrible if not worse for peace. The misery of the Palestinians continues, unabated.
Muhammad Shehada is a writer and civil society activist from the Gaza Strip. He was the PR officer at the Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights in Gaza, and is currently a student of Development Studies at Lund University.