Israeli and Jewish leaders from around the world have paid tribute to the outgoing US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, after she announced her resignation on Tuesday.
After two years championing Israel at the world forum, Israeli leaders expressed their gratitude for the way she tackled anti-Israel bias and oversaw the US embassy move to Jerusalem, as well as the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
During her time at the UN, she led the US withdrawal from a UN human rights body critical of Israel and pulled US funding for Palestinian authorities and refugee programmes, positions which put the Trump administration at odds with allies.
News of her pending departure came as a shock to diplomats and world leaders who had grown used to her combative style, which she used to threaten countries voting against the US embassy move.
She became known for her undiplomatic words, describing the UN Human Rights Council as “a cesspool of political bias” and “a protector of human rights abusers” that targets Israel while ignoring atrocities elsewhere.
As one of Donald Trump’s most trusted lieutenants, Haley tried to distance her boss from the Obama administration, which had refused to veto an anti-settlement resolution at the UN in the days before Obama left office, triggering bitter criticism from Israel.
Haley won rapturous applause at the annual conference of US-Israel lobby group AIPAC when she said the resolution “showed the United States at its weakest ever,” vowing that Trump would never fail to defend Israel.
After the UN overwhelmingly condemned the US embassy move to Jerusalem, Haley reacted furiously at the “insult,” saying she would be “taking names” and wearing that it would not be forgotten.
This garnered praise from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said she had had “lit a candle of truth” and “dispelled the darkness… On Chanukah, you spoke like a Maccabi.”
As news of her resignation broke this week, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin thanked her “from the depths of our heart on behalf of all the citizens of Israel”.
He said she was “an uncompromising advocate of American policy towards the Middle East and Israel, and never wavered in her support for our clear right to maintain the security of our region,” adding: “More than once, by speaking clearly, she tore away the cynical smokescreen that was masking what the UN and international organisations were really doing.”
He continued: “I thank Ambassador Haley for her courage and for a term of office that will be remembered as a turning point in the relations between the US and international organisations, and the discriminatory stance they have taken towards Israel on more than one occasion.”
Netanyahu tweeted: “Thank you Amb. Haley for standing for the truth and exposing hypocrisy at the UN. Just as the people of Israel are grateful for the rock solid support Trump has provided Israel in the Oval Office, we are grateful for the rock solid support you’ve provided Israel at the UN.”
Likewise Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who leads the religious-nationalist Jewish Home party, said: “On behalf of the Israeli people, thank you for what you’ve done for Israel. We will not forget.”
Haley, who will leave office at the end of the year, was formerly the governor of South Carolina and commentators have suggested she may be preparing to run for president in 2020, an idea she denied at a news conference with Donald Trump this week.
Writing in Haaretz, analyst Chemi Shalev said: “For the government of Israel and for many Israelis, Haley was simply the best ambassador ever, American or Israeli … she was Netanyahu’s best answer to accusations that he is gambling on Israel’s future by pitching in with an unstable and deeply unpopular president.”