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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Palestinians say goodbye to ‘worst ever’ US ambassador Nikki Haley

Officials in Ramallah happy to see back of UN envoy, but worry about another hardline replacement

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leaves the room as Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour prepares to address a Security Council meeting. AP
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leaves the room as Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour prepares to address a Security Council meeting. AP

The Palestinians have welcomed the resignation of US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, branding her the "worst ever" envoy to represent Washington at the global body.

There was relief in Ramallah on Tuesday as the former South Carolina governor sat next to US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office and announced her unexpected departure from his administration to take time off at the end of the year.

“She was one of the worst ever,” Nabil Shaath, senior Palestinian official and aide of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told The National. “Her biased statements, attitude, cynical gestures, in every way she was negative.”

He said Mrs Haley was “so pro-Israel that I do not think I have ever seen this from a responsible American official in a position” like hers.

“She leaves now without regrets on our side,” he said.

Mrs Haley was a vocal supporter of Israel and took hardline positions in favour of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right coalition. She led Mr Trump’s pro-Israeli agenda at the UN, removing Washington from the Human Rights Council and spearheading the cutting of all American aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Those cuts have left it facing the worst crisis in its history and hundreds of Palestinians across the occupied territories and Gaza without employment or vital aid. Ms Haley said the decision was deserved as the Palestinians had only chosen to “badmouth” Washington after Mr Trump’s inauguration.

The UN envoy blocked the appointment of former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as the body’s representative to Libya because of his Palestinian background and, in another swipe at the Palestinians, left the UN Security Council chamber as their ambassador to the UN gave an address. She also suggested that the Palestinian right of return – to lands that are now modern-day Israel after its mass exile of Arabs at the birth of the country in 1948 – should be off the table.

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Her actions were in part a reason why Palestinian officials cut all public ties to Washington, although the main rupture came after Mr Trump relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem. They believed that she was not speaking on behalf of US policy, but of Israel’s long-held policy: squeezing the Palestinians and removing all hope of a sovereign Palestinian state.

“It (her resignation) is good news for all people who seek justice, especially Palestinians,” Ahmad Tibi, the most popular Palestinian politician in Israel, told The National.

“She was the advocate of the Israeli occupation and settlers. I think that the UN without her is better and is more open to hear about ending occupation and international law.”

The Israeli elite celebrated Ms Haley after the announcement. Danny Danon, Israel’s envoy to the UN, tweeted thanks to her alongside a video in which she says she was “determined to stand up to the UN’s anti-Israel bias,” a line consistently pushed by Israeli politicians after probes into its killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and continued occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Mr Netanyahu celebrated her for her “struggle against hypocrisy at the UN”.

For Palestinians, however, she played a key role in removing the US as a broker in the decades-long conflict, siding with a government that they view as trying to take the West Bank for itself as construction continues unopposed in dozens of illegal outposts across the occupied territory.

But, as one hardline Israeli supporter leaves the Trump administration, the Palestinians are now concerned about what comes next.

“We have absolutely no control over what will come. [Trump] might choose somebody for reasons of his own calculus and they might turn out to be better than Nikki Haley,” Mr Shaath said.

“But they will not be too different from Mr Trump’s general ideas,” he continued. “He or she will be his spokesman.”