Ambassador Nominee: ‘I Will Never Abstain’ When UN Acts Against US Interests and Values

By Patrick Goodenough | January 18, 2017 | 8:46 PM EST

UN Ambassador-designate, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, arrives for a meeting with Senate Foreign Relations Committee members on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

( – President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for ambassador to the U.N. told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday she will “never abstain” when the world body acts against U.S. interests and values.

In an apparent reference to the Obama administration’s decision to allow a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Israel to pass last month, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said she would “not go to New York and abstain when the U.N. seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel.”

“In fact, I pledge to you this,” she continued. “I will never abstain when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict with the interests and values of the United States.”

Haley was sharply critical of the U.N.’s “anti-Israel bias,” citing a disproportionate number of condemnatory resolutions in both the U.N. General Assembly and Human Rights Council.

She then pointed to Security Council resolution 2334, adopted on December 23 in the absence of a U.S. veto.

Echoing criticism from the Israeli government and congressional Republicans and Democrats, Haley called it “a terrible mistake, making a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians harder to achieve.”

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and others have said that by describing areas disputed between Israelis and Palestinians to be “occupied Palestinian territory” resolution 2334 effectively predetermines the outcome of negotiations over that land, thus complicating rather than facilitating chances of a negotiated settlement.

Further underlining her pro-Israel credentials, Haley noted that she was the first governor in the nation to sign legislation to combat the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

‘Strategic types of cutting’

In remarks that will cheer many conservatives, Haley questioned the lopsided contribution made by U.S. taxpayers to the U.N.’s operating budget.

“We contribute 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, far more than any other country,” she said. “We are a generous nation, but we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution. Are we getting what we pay for?”

(The next biggest contributor to the budget is Japan, at 9.6 percent, followed by China at 7.9 percent and Germany 6.3. The vast majority of member-states pay well below one percent.

Earlier in Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) pointed out that in addition to the 22 percent the U.S. contributes to the regular budget, it also accounts for 29 percent of the peacekeeping budget, and for “billions of dollars [in voluntary contributions] to other organizations that are affiliated” with the U.N.)

Haley prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

However, in response to concerns raised by Democrats about pulling funding from the U.N. – if the U.S. does not get its way in General Assembly votes for instance – Haley said she did not believe in “slash and burn.”

“I think that what’s important is, we look at every organization, see if it’s working for us, see if it’s something we want to be a part of, and then I’ll report back to you as well as to the president-elect on whether that’s something we need to be a part of,” she said.

In response to a similar question later, she again distanced herself from a “slash and burn” approach, adding, “What is important is that we do strategic types of cutting, if we’re going to cut anything at all.”

Haley pointed to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council as an example of a program where funds may be withheld.

“If for example we see in the Human Rights Council that Cuba’s there and China’s there and we’re not seeing the human rights move in the way that Americans’ values are supposed to, yes, I’m going to come back to you and say ‘this is a real problem, this doesn’t follow our mission.’”

Haley characterized the U.N. overall as a body that does good work in some areas, but which also frequently acts in conflict with U.S. interests.

“The U.N. and its specialized agencies have had numerous successes. Its health and food programs have saved millions of lives,” she said in her opening statement. “Its weapons monitoring efforts have provided us with vital security information. Its peacekeeping missions have, at times, performed valuable services.”.

“However, any honest assessment also finds an institution that is often at odds with American national interests and American taxpayers.”

Going further, she said more and more Americans today “are becoming convinced by actions like the passage of resolution 2334 that the United Nations does more harm than good.”

“The American people see the U.N.’s mistreatment of Israel, its failure to prevent the North Korean nuclear threat, its waste and corruption, and they are fed up.”

“My job – our job – is to reform the U.N. in ways that rebuild the confidence of the American people,” Haley added. “We must build an international institution that honors America’s commitment to freedom, democracy, and human rights.”

Born in South Carolina to Sikh immigrant parents from Punjab, India, Haley was elected to the state’s House of Representatives in 2004. She was elected governor in 2010, winning a second term in 2014.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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