Though it has been argued that the so-called American dream is long dead, Nikki Haley is proof that the dream is still alive. Unfortunately, the ‘dream’ is hers alone.
Until recently, a close confidante of former US President Donald Trump and his pro-Israel circle, Haley wants to be the next United States president. On 14 February, she officially declared her candidacy and, starting February next year, she will be officially competing against her former bosses in the Republican primaries.
It is true that her popularity among Republican Party supporters hovers between 3-4 per cent, but Haley still feels that she stands to win, if she plays her cards right. Though a victory in a party that is neither keen on women nor minority politicians, she has enough success stories to give her the needed confidence.
“Even on our worst day, we are blessed to live in America,” Haley said in her campaign launch video. Though such a statement may appear somewhat typical by US politicians on such occasions, Haley’s statement carries hidden, if not troubling, insinuations.
Haley considers her life a testament to the ahistorical claim that “America is not a racist country”, a chant she led to the cheers of thousands of her supporters at her first campaign rally on 15 February in Charleston, South Carolina.
For Republicans, the Haley profile is critical because it is uncommon. They understand that a Black candidate will not perform well among their constituency or that of the Democratic Party. Still, they desperately need any ‘person of colour’ who would appeal to disenchanted minority voters, if that candidate reaffirms the pre-existing beliefs of most Republicans: that America is a great country free of racism and inequality, with many dangerous foreign enemies and that Israel is its most trusted ally. Haley, for years, has enthusiastically played that part.
“I was the proud daughter of Indian immigrants. Not Black. Not White. I was different,” she said. This seemingly innocuous statement has served as Haley’s central message in her political career since she left her family’s Exotica International clothing business in 2011 to run for the Governor’s office in South Carolina, and won.
In 2017, Haley’s success story continued. She became the US Ambassador to the UN. This position has historically been far more relevant to Israeli interests rather than the US’, because the UN is one of a few international platforms in which Palestinians and their supporters attempt, though often in vain, to hold Israel accountable for its illegal practices in occupied Palestine.
For decades, the US has opposed any attempt by Arab and other countries to punish Israel for its military occupation and continued human rights violations in Palestine. The dozens of vetoes used by the US to block any attempt at condemning Israeli colonialism or war crimes at the UN Security Council only tell part of the story.
Within the relatively short span of two years of diplomacy that catered mostly to serve Israel, Haley managed to successfully help in the blocking of US funding of the UN Palestine Refugees Agency (UNRWA). She also engineered her country’s exit from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) due to its criticism of Israel.
She is also credited for being part of the decision that led to the US’ abrupt withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and was a crucial member of the Trump team behind the so-called ‘Deal of the Century’, which has ultimately fizzled into empty rhetoric.
Now Haley is hoping to cash in – literally – on her dedication to Israel and to her country’s hawkish foreign policy in the Middle East. One claim that she has repeatedly made to her donors, who consist mostly of pro-Israeli billionaires, is that she has kept all the promises she made to Israel at the 2017 AIPAC conference. Indeed, she has.
Her performance at the lobby group’s annual policy conference ‘thrilled the crowd’, the Times of Israel then reported. In her speech, Haley, intoxicated by the political potential of winning standing ovations from 18,000 AIPAC conference attendees, declared herself a “new sheriff in town”, who will make sure that “the days of Israel-bashing at the UN are over”.
As far as Israel was concerned, the sheriff delivered, ushering in Israel’s golden age at the UN, and forging lasting friendships between Haley and top Israeli officials and donors.
Haley became a “source of pride for hawkish supporters of Israel for leading the fight against anti-Israel resolutions,” the Jewish weekly newspaper, the Forward, wrote on 14 February.
Notably, a four-second footage in Haley’s campaign launch video was in Israel, specifically near the fence with besieged Gaza. Walking alongside her is the former Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon. While at the UN, they developed a “unique working relationship – and a lasting friendship”, the Forward reported, citing Danon, currently a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Significantly, the former Israeli ambassador believes that if “Haley was running for president in Israel she would have won easily”. Considering her poor performance among US voters, one must raise the question: why would an American presidential candidate be far more popular among Israelis than Americans?
Haley’s strategy, however, is paying dividends, at least financially. Jacob Kornbluh elaborated on the sources of funding for Haley’s super PAC, Stand for America. Much of the $17 million raised in the last election cycle came from “prominent Jewish donors”. They include Miriam Adelson, wife of late pro-Israeli casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, along with money from Paul Singers, Bernie Marcus and Daniel Loeb, among many others.
It may seem strange that such funds are invested in a candidate who has, at least for now, little chances of winning the Republican nomination, but the money is not wasted. Tel Aviv is simply rewarding Haley’s many favours, knowing that, regardless of her exact position in government, Haley will always continue to prioritise Israel’s interests in her political agenda, and, if needed, even ahead of her own country’s.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.