The Hon. Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN: A refreshing new voice
Babette FrancisAs UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) sponsored yet another Resolution criticising Israel in May this year, it was notable that the Resolution received less support than usual. Submitted by Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Sudan, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, of the 58 Member Executive Board: 10 opposed it (United States, Italy, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Greece, Germany, Paraguay, Togo and Ukraine), 22 nations supported it including Russia, Iran, Sweden, South Africa, China, Brazil and Vietnam, 23 countries abstained including Estonia, France, Slovenia, Spain, India, Japan, Kenya and Uganda, and three were absent (Nepal, Serbia and Turkmenistan).
Enter stage right, new US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who declared "The UN's anti-Israel bias...is long overdue for a change." At her first press briefing following a UN Security Council monthly meeting devoted to the Middle East, she said she could not believe that the meeting focused on Israel, while ignoring the role of Iran and Syria in destabilsing the Middle East.
"I am new around here, but I understand that's how the Council has operated month after month for decades. I am here to say the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here to underscore the ironclad support of the United States for Israel. I am here to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the UN's anti- Israel bias. The outrageously biased resolutions from the Security Council and the General Assembly only make peace harder to attain by discouraging one of the parties from going to the negotiating table."
Nikki Haley has also taken issue with the UN department's political affairs division on Palestinian affairs: "The UN department of political affairs has an entire division devoted entirely to Palestinian affairs. Imagine that. There is no division devoted to illegal missile launches form North Korea. There is no division devoted to the world's number one state sponsor of terror, Iran. The prejudiced approach to Israeli- Palestinian issues does the peace process no favors, and it bears no relationship to the reality of the world around us. The double standards are breathtaking."
Nikki Haley is not just talk, she has already implemented changes. When the US held the presidency of the Security Council for a month in April, she ensured that the focus would be on Iran, instead of an "Israel bashing" session and said, "Iran is using Hezbollah to expand its regional aspirations. That is a threat that should be dominating our discussions at the Security Council." She noted Iran's complicity in the atrocities in Syria, its militias standing "side by side with Syrian troops as they slaughter the Syrian people. Hezbollah helped Assad starve and destroy Aleppo."
During a meeting with Palestinian Authority envoy Riyad Mansour, Nikki Haley urged the Palestinians to resume negotiations with Israel, and indicated that unilateral actions at the UN will not have US support. She believes that UN initiatives on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict have so far "been more of a hindrance toward the peace process than a help, because it has caused defensiveness to happen and that's never healthy for anything."
When asked about her outspoken defence of Israel at the UN, Nikki Haley responded by saying, "All I've done with Israel is tell the truth... so when I saw something wrong, I called it out." She has received support from all Democrats and Republicans in the US Senate. The Senate recently sent a unanimous letter signed by all 100 members to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres praising Nikki Haley's comments condemning anti-Israel bias at the UN, and calling on the UN to implement changes. The letter stated that, "too often, the U.N. is exploited as a vehicle for targeting Israel rather than as a forum committed to advancing the lofty goals of its founders. These actions have at times reinforced the broader scourge of anti-Semitism, and distracted certain U.N. entities from their original missions," adding, "We urge you to ensure that Israel is treated neither better nor worse than any other UN member in good standing."
The senators called on the UN to improve its treatment of Israel, including by: eliminating or reforming committees which only serve to "attack Israel" and inspire the boycott movement; ending UNESCO's denial of the Jewish connection to Jerusalem; reforming the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); and for reform of the United Nations Human Rights Council to "end the Council's imbalanced focus on Israel" and to instead focus on human rights abuses in countries such as Russia, China, North Korea, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela and South Sudan.