Whether previously calculated or coincidental, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, just received a confirmation of her astounding failure at the UN, only days after she pompously detailed her ‘achievements.’
On Tuesday, October 16, the UN General Assembly elevated the Palestinian membership at the UN body with a particular honor: heading the G77 of developed countries, and acting like a full member in meetings to be held in 2019.
This was not the plan for Haley nor for Israel. For the last two years, Haley, along with Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, plotted to ‘punish’ Palestinians at the UN, to disrupt the workings of the General Assembly, to sway the Security Council using all means available, in favor of Israel, and to financially boycott smaller UN bodies for supporting Palestinian rights.
Haley, who had recently announced news of her intended resignation from her post by the end of this year, listed Israel as one of her three main achievements during her relatively short stint. Haley’s achievements, according to her own recounting, were: making the US more respected, saving her country a lot of money and strongly defending Israel against UN “bias.”
“All of those things have made a huge difference in the US standing,” she proclaimed. “The US is strong again. And the US is strong in a way that should make all Americans very proud.” But is there any truth to Haley’s own assessment to her performance?
Judging by Palestine’s new status, it seems that Haley’s perception of “anti-Israeli bias” was, in fact, accentuated more in her term at the UN than ever before. As for the supposedly newfound ‘respect’, let’s examine the evidence:
During his speech before the General Assembly on September 25, Trump’s preposterous claims of having “accomplished more than almost any ... in the history of our country”, were not met with thundering applause but humiliating laughter.
Palestinians are definitely relieved to see Haley depart her post at the UN, but they would be truly reassured when they see an international community that is capable of enforcing international lawRamzy Baroud
In fact, that single incident epitomizes the increasing contempt and lack of respect for the US among its peers. However, there is no question that Haley was ideally suited as Trump’s representative to the international community. Her aggressive and self-aggrandizing language tallies with the political discourse emanating from the White House.
That aside, considering the violations of human rights committed by Israel during Haley’s time at the UN, her relentless defense of Israel is no laughing matter.
Haley’s supposed “achievements” of saving money and supporting Israel are intrinsically linked. Indeed, the US saved $1.3 billion – as she claimed – by cutting off funds to organizations that were critical of Israel or supportive of the Palestinian people.
The UN Palestine refugee’s agency, UNRWA, suffered the most thus far from the joint US-Israeli attempts at disrupting, and eventually ending the important role played by this organization.
US government’s decision to slash funds provided to an agency that cares for millions of Palestinian refugees is part of the new American-Israeli strategy aimed at redefining the rules of the game altogether.
UNRWA is now experiencing its worst financial crisis yet. The gap in its budget is estimated at around $217 million and is rapidly increasing as the US has withheld all $350 million it provided annually to the organization.
The impact of this callous decision by the US is already reverberating in many refugee camps across the region. Recently, UNRWA has downgraded some of its services, forcing it to lay off many teachers and reduce staff and working hours at various clinics. Moreover, for the second month in a row, UNRWA has cut 40 percent of its employees’ salaries.
Expectedly, Israel is the brains behind the joint operation of targeting UNRWA. “It is time to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem,” said the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, early October.
Without any evidence, Barkat claimed that “UNRWA is strengthening terror” and that “the children of Jerusalem are taught under their auspices, terror, and this must be stopped.” The targeting of UNRWA is part of an ongoing Israeli plan to isolate Palestinians completely, thus, strengthening their ties to the international community.
Although Haley, Danon and others attempted to achieve such an elaborate plan at the UN, so far, they have not been successful. This is an important fact, considering that no US ambassador to the UN has been as aggressive and determined in her support of Israel has Haley has been.
Yet, the fact that she has failed to dissuade the UN from supporting Palestine and condemning Israel should speak volumes about how isolated Israel remains in the international community.
For a while, it appeared that Nikki Haley was Israel’s conquering hero. Eager to reassure Israel that it has not been abandoned – following a December 2016 UNSC vote criticizing illegal Israeli settlements, Haley launched her pro-Israel campaign at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in March 2017, using outlandish and tactless rhetoric.
“There’s a new sheriff in town,” she announced before nearly 18,000 conference attendees, intoxicated with excitement. “I wear heels. It’s not for a fashion statement,” she declared. “It’s because if I see something wrong, we’re going to kick ’em every single time.”
Haley was true to her words. She tried to manage the UN from within – rewarding and punishing as she saw fit – to end what she wrongly perceived as the organization’s systematic targeting of Israel.
On a visit to Israel in June 2017, she accused the UN in a press conference held jointly with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, of ‘bullying’ Israel. “If there’s anything I have no patience for, it’s bullies – and the UN was being such a bully to Israel because they could,” she said.
In December 2017, the self-proclaimed anti-bullying diplomat threatened those who voted in favor of an Egypt-sponsored draft resolution that expressed “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem.” She vetoed the draft which was supported by all other members of the Security Council, calling the vote an 'insult' that would not be forgotten.
On May 14, Israeli snipers opened fire at unarmed protesters at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, killing more than 60 and injuring thousands. Haley was the only member of the Security Council who could not comprehend the international outrage over one of the worst Israeli massacres in years.
“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she told the other ambassadors. While Haley was duly criticized by Palestinians for impeding international law, she was enthusiastically celebrated by Israel and its friends in Washington for being a “true friend of Israel.”
It is important, however, that we do not reduce the discussion of the US support of Israel at the UN, or the ongoing targeting of UNRWA, among other UN bodies to Haley, Danon and their botched intrigues. For the international community to show true support for Palestinians, they must also fight against Israeli attempts at isolating Palestinians on the ground.
Yes, honoring Palestine with the role of heading the G77 is useful, at least on a symbolic level, but far more substantial is safeguarding the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees and ensuring that UNRWA continues with its historical mission.
Palestinians are definitely relieved to see Haley depart her post at the UN, but they would be truly reassured when they see an international community that is capable of enforcing international law.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018). He earned a Ph.D. in Palestine Studies from the University of Exeter and is a Non-Resident Scholar at Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, UCSB. His website is www.ramzybaroud.net and he tweets @RamzyBaroud.