Comparing Nikki Haley’s and Samantha Power’s Speeches after UN Votes on Israel

On December 18, 2017, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley gave a strong defense about the US position regarding its veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning the United States for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and announcing its intention to move its embassy to the city. The remarks following the vote stand in sharp contrast to the speech delivered by her predecessor Samantha Power after the US’s abstention from the UN Security Council vote that labeled Israeli settlements – including those in eastern Jerusalem – as illegal.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley casts the lone ‘no’ vote to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution attempting to annul President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in New York on Monday, December 18, 2017.
(UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

Not surprisingly, only Haley spoke at length about American sovereignty as it was the United States, not Israel, that was the focus of the December 2017 resolution. However, the overall approaches were radically different:

  • On Israel: Haley was clear that Israel was correct while Power argued that Israel was wrong
  • On Palestinians: Haley reminded the Palestinian Arabs how much support they receive from the USA (she therefore had no interest in being lectured to and also delivered an implied threat) while Power made no mention of US support of Palestinians, only of Israel which it had just undermined
  • On the Security Council: Haley lambasted the council, while Power simply noted the US’s disappointment with the council
  • On the Peace Process: Haley made clear the US’s support for a mutually-agreed to resolution, while Power stated her position over-and-again about her preferred conclusion (two states) and Israel’s actions that she believed hurt such conclusion (settlements harm two states)
  • On the centrality of the US President: Haley made no mention of President Trump while Power mentioned President Obama over-and-again

In short, Nikki Haley took a strong leadership position in defense of the United States sovereignty and Israeli rights and had no reservations of strongly rebuking the United Nations. It was quite a contrast to Samantha Power who couched her criticism of the UN in much softer language while agreeing with its conclusions, and essentially asserted that as a strong backer of Israel’s security, she could undermine Israel’s sovereignty.

Haley stood tall and asserted American and Israeli rights while standing for a mutually-agreed upon peace. Power stood above Israel and rebuked it on the world stage since she did not agree with its actions and approach towards co-existence in the holy land.

A Side-by-Side Comparison

Factor Nikki Haley Samantha Power
Words 1102 2180
Action Veto Abstention
Bi-Partisan Republican administration quoted Democrats Democratic administration quoted Republicans
On the Security Council 1.      “it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council”

2.      “When the American people see a group of countries whose total contributions to the Palestinian people is less than one percent of UNRWA’s budget – when they see these countries accuse the United States of being insufficiently committed to peace – the American people lose their patience

3.      “What we witnessed here today in the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten”

4.      United Nations doing more harm than good

1.      Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations”

2.      “in 2016 Israel continues to be treated differently from other Member States”

3.      “pressing this Council to break its indefensible silence in response to terrorist attacks on Israelis”

4.      “such unequal treatment not only hurts Israel, it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself”

5.      “The practice of treating Israel differently at the UN matters for votes like this one”

6.      “what steps will you take to stop treating Israel differently?”

7.      what will you do to end the double-standard that undermines the legitimacy of this institution?”

8.      “when a resolution on Israel comes before this Council, members suddenly summon the will to act.”

9.      “this forum too often continues to be biased against Israel

Regarding America 1.      “in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process”

2.      “The United States’ has a sovereign right to determine where and whether we establish an embassy”

3.      “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.”

4.      “the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty

 N/A
The president N/A 1.      the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to fight for Israel’s right simply to be treated just like any other country”

2.      President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned [Israel]”

3.      President Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security”

4.      Obama administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide $38 billion in security assistance to Israel over the next 10 years”

On the Peace Process 1.      “A “peace process” that is damaged by the simple recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is not a peace process

2.      “The United States has never been more committed to peace in the Middle East”

1.      United States’ deep and long-standing commitment to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians”
On prejudging negotiations 1.      “great care not to prejudge final status negotiations in any way”

2.      “we support a two-state solution if that’s what the parties agree to

1.      United States’ long-standing position that Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region”

2.      “reaffirming the long-standing U.S. position on settlements, condemning violence and incitement,”

3.      “we do not believe that outside parties can impose a solution that has not been negotiated by the two parties”

4.      long-standing objective: two states living side-by-side in peace and security”

5.      “One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict”

6.      “the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy”

7.      None of us can give up on a two-state solution

8.      “it is ultimately up to the parties to choose this path [two states]”

On legality of Israeli action N/A 1.      the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop – privately and publicly – for nearly five decades”

2.      the resolution proposed today is justified – or, even more, necessitated – by events on the ground”

3.      “rather than dismantling these and other settler outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, now there is new legislation advancing in the Israeli Knesset that would legalize most of the outposts”

On Jerusalem / settlements 1.      “Jerusalem has been the political, cultural, and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years. They have had no other capital city”

2.      Jerusalem is the capital and seat of the modern Israeli government”

3.      “acknowledging a basic truth about the capital city of Israel

1.      The settlement problem has gotten so much worse

2.      continued settlement building seriously undermines Israel’s security.”

On Israeli security  N/A 1.      the United States’ steadfast and unparalleled commitment to the security of Israel,”

2.      “President Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security

On the Palestinian Authority 1.      “some have threatened violence on the street, as if violence would somehow improve the prospects of peace”

2.      “What does it gain the Palestinian people for their leaders to throw up roadblocks to negotiations?”

3.      “What does it gain the Palestinian people for some of their leaders to accuse the United States of being hostile to the cause of peace? It gains them nothing, but it risks costing them a great deal

4.      their leaders do them no favors by being more open to abandoning peace negotiations than to doing the hard work of seeing them to completion”

1.      addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence”

2.      “the incitement to violence, the glorification of terrorists, and the growth of violent extremism erodes prospects for peace”

3.      “rather than condemn these attacks, Hamas, other radical factions, and even certain members of Fatah have held up the terrorists as heroes, and used social media to incite others to follow in their murderous footsteps”

4.      “addressed counterproductive actions by Palestinians”

On the Palestinians 1.      “The United States has done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people. By far. Since 1994, we have given over $5 billion to the Palestinians in bilateral economic assistance, security assistance, and humanitarian assistance”

2.      “Last year, the United States voluntarily funded almost 30 percent of UNRWA’s budget. That’s more than the next two largest donors combined.”

Nikki Haley’s remarks:

Thank you, Mr. President.

I have been the proud Representative of the United States at the United Nations for nearly a year now. This is the first time I have exercised the American right to veto a resolution in the Security Council. The exercise of the veto is not something the United States does often. We have not done it in more than six years. We do it with no joy, but we do it with no reluctance.

The fact that this veto is being done in defense of American sovereignty and in defense of America’s role in the Middle East peace process is not a source of embarrassment for us; it should be an embarrassment to the remainder of the Security Council.

As I pointed out when we discussed this topic 10 days ago, I will once again note the features of the President’s announcement on Jerusalem that are most relevant here. The President took great care not to prejudge final status negotiations in any way, including the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. That remains a subject to be negotiated only by the parties. That position is fully in line with the previous Security Council resolutions.

The President was also careful to state that we support the status quo regarding Jerusalem’s holy sites, and we support a two-state solution if that’s what the parties agree to. Again, these positions are fully consistent with the previous Security Council resolutions.

It is highly regrettable that some are trying to distort the President’s position to serve their own agendas.

What is troublesome to some people is not that the United States has harmed the peace process – we have, in fact, done no such thing. Rather, what is troublesome to some people is that the United States had the courage and honesty to recognize a fundamental reality. Jerusalem has been the political, cultural, and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people for thousands of years. They have had no other capital city. But the United States’ recognition of the obvious – that Jerusalem is the capital and seat of the modern Israeli government – is too much for some.

First, some have threatened violence on the street, as if violence would somehow improve the prospects of peace.

Now today, buried in diplomatic jargon, some presume to tell America where to put our embassy. The United States’ has a sovereign right to determine where and whether we establish an embassy. I suspect very few Member States would welcome Security Council pronouncements about their sovereign decisions. And I think of some who should fear it.

It’s worth noting that this is not a new American position. Back in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was the American President, the Security Council voted on Resolution 478, which called upon diplomatic missions to relocate from Jerusalem. The United States did not support Resolution 478.

In his remarks, then-Secretary of State Ed Muskie said the following: “The draft resolution before us today is illustrative of a preoccupation which has produced this series of unbalanced and unrealistic texts on Middle East issues.”

Specifically, regarding the provision on diplomatic missions in Jerusalem, Secretary Muskie said this: “In our judgment, this provision is not binding. It is without force. And we reject it as a disruptive attempt to dictate to other nations. It does nothing to promote a resolution of the difficult problems facing Israel and its neighbors. It does nothing to advance the cause of peace.”

That was in 1980. It is equally true today. The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.

Buried even deeper in the jargon of this resolution is the accusation that the United States is setting back the prospects of peace in the Middle East. That is a scandalous charge. Those who are making it should consider that it only harms the very Palestinian people they claim to speak for. What does it gain the Palestinian people for their leaders to throw up roadblocks to negotiations?

A “peace process” that is damaged by the simple recognition that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is not a peace process; it is a justification for an endless stalemate. What does it gain the Palestinian people for some of their leaders to accuse the United States of being hostile to the cause of peace? It gains them nothing, but it risks costing them a great deal.

The United States has done more than any other country to assist the Palestinian people. By far. Since 1994, we have given over $5 billion to the Palestinians in bilateral economic assistance, security assistance, and humanitarian assistance.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees operates schools and medical facilities throughout the region. It is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions. Last year, the United States voluntarily funded almost 30 percent of UNRWA’s budget. That’s more than the next two largest donors combined. And it’s vastly more than some of the members of this Council that have considerable financial resources of their own.

I’ll be blunt: When the American people see a group of countries whose total contributions to the Palestinian people is less than one percent of UNRWA’s budget – when they see these countries accuse the United States of being insufficiently committed to peace – the American people lose their patience.

I have been to the Palestinian refugee camps the United States supports with their contributions. I have met with men, women, and children. I have advocated on their behalf. I can tell you that their leaders do them no favors by being more open to abandoning peace negotiations than to doing the hard work of seeing them to completion.

The United States has never been more committed to peace in the Middle East. We were committed to it before the President announced our recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and we’re committed to it today.

What we witnessed here today in the Security Council is an insult. It won’t be forgotten. It’s one more example of the United Nations doing more harm than good in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Today, for the simple act of deciding where to put our embassy, the United States was forced to defend its sovereignty. The record will reflect that we did so proudly. Today, for acknowledging a basic truth about the capital city of Israel, we are accused of harming peace. The record will reflect that we reject that outrageous claim.

For these reasons, and with the best interests of both the Israeli and the Palestinian people firmly in mind, the United States votes no on this resolution.

Thank you.


Samantha Power’s remarks:

Thank you, Mr. President.

Let me begin with a quote: “The United States will not support the use of any additional land for the purpose of settlements during the transitional period. Indeed, the immediate adoption of a settlement freeze by Israel, more than any other action, could create the confidence needed for wider participation in these talks. Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

This was said in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan. He was speaking about a new proposal that he was launching to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While ultimately, of course, President Reagan’s proposal was not realized, his words are still illuminating in at least two respects.

First, because they underscore the United States’ deep and long-standing commitment to achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. That has been the policy of every administration, Republican and Democrat, since before President Reagan and all the way through to the present day.

Second, because President Reagan’s words highlight the United States’ long-standing position that Israeli settlement activity in territories occupied in 1967 undermines Israel’s security, harms the viability of a negotiated two-state outcome, and erodes prospects for peace and stability in the region. Today, the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending the message that the settlements must stop – privately and publicly – for nearly five decades, through the administrations of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and now Barack Obama. Indeed, since 1967, the only president who had not had at least one Israeli-Palestinian-related Security Council resolution pass during his tenure is Barack Obama. So our vote today is fully in line with the bipartisan history of how American Presidents have approached both the issue – and the role of this body.

Given the consistency of this position across U.S. administrations, one would think that it would be a routine vote for the U.S. to allow the passage of a resolution with the elements in this one, reaffirming the long-standing U.S. position on settlements, condemning violence and incitement, and calling for the parties to start taking constructive steps to reverse current trends on the ground. These are familiar, well-articulated components of U.S. policy.

But in reality this vote for us was not straightforward, because of where it is taking place – at the United Nations. For the simple truth is that for as long as Israel has been a member of this institution, Israel has been treated differently from other nations at the United Nations. And not only in decades past – such as in the infamous resolution that the General Assembly adopted in 1975, with the support of the majority of Member States, officially determining that, “Zionism is a form of racism” – but also in 2016, this year. One need only look at the 18 resolutions against Israel adopted during the UN General Assembly in September; or the 12 Israel-specific resolutions adopted this year in the Human Rights Council – more than those focused on Syria, North Korea, Iran, and South Sudan put together – to see that in 2016 Israel continues to be treated differently from other Member States.

Like U.S. administrations before it, the Obama Administration has worked tirelessly to fight for Israel’s right simply to be treated just like any other country – from advocating for Israel to finally be granted membership to a UN regional body, something no other UN Member State had been denied; to fighting to ensure that Israeli NGOs are not denied UN accreditation, simply because they are Israeli, to getting Yom Kippur finally recognized as a UN holiday; to pressing this Council to break its indefensible silence in response to terrorist attacks on Israelis. As the United States has said repeatedly, such unequal treatment not only hurts Israel, it undermines the legitimacy of the United Nations itself.

The practice of treating Israel differently at the UN matters for votes like this one. For even if one believes that the resolution proposed today is justified – or, even more, necessitated – by events on the ground, one cannot completely separate the vote from the venue.

And Member States that say they are for the two-state solution must ask themselves some difficult questions. For those states that are quick to promote resolutions condemning Israel, but refuse to recognize when innocent Israelis are the victims of terrorism – what steps will you take to stop treating Israel differently? For those states that passionately denounce the closures of crossings in Gaza as exacerbating the humanitarian situation, but saying nothing of the resources diverted from helping Gaza’s residents to dig tunnels into Israeli territory so that terrorists can attack Israelis in their homes – what will you do to end the double-standard that undermines the legitimacy of this institution?

Member States should also ask themselves about the double standards when it comes to this Council taking action. Just this morning we came together, as a Council, and we were unable to muster the will to act to stop the flow of weapons going to killers in South Sudan, who are perpetrating mass atrocities that the UN has said could lead to genocide. We couldn’t come together just to stem the flow of arms. Earlier this month, this Council could not muster the will to adopt the simplest of resolutions calling for a seven-day pause in the savage bombardment of innocent civilians, hospitals, and schools in Aleppo. Yet when a resolution on Israel comes before this Council, members suddenly summon the will to act.

It is because this forum too often continues to be biased against Israel; because there are important issues that are not sufficiently addressed in this resolution; and because the United States does not agree with every word in this text, that the United States did not vote in favor of the resolution. But it is because this resolution reflects the facts on the ground – and is consistent with U.S. policy across Republican and Democratic administration throughout the history of the State of Israel – that the United States did not veto it.

The United States has consistently said we would block any resolution that we thought would undermine Israel’s security or seek to impose a resolution to the conflict. We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by the Palestinians such as terrorism and incitement to violence, which we’ve repeatedly condemned and repeatedly raised with the Palestinian leadership, and which, of course, must be stopped.

Unlike some on the UN Security Council, we do not believe that outside parties can impose a solution that has not been negotiated by the two parties. Nor can we unilaterally recognize a future Palestinian state. But it is precisely our commitment to Israel’s security that makes the United States believe that we cannot stand in the way of this resolution as we seek to preserve a chance of attaining our long-standing objective: two states living side-by-side in peace and security. Let me briefly explain why.

The settlement problem has gotten so much worse that it is now putting at risk the very viability of that two-state solution. The number of settlers in the roughly 150 authorized Israeli settlements east of the 1967 lines has increased dramatically. Since the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords – which launched efforts that made a comprehensive and lasting peace possible – the number of settlers has increased by 355,000. The total settler population in the West Bank and East Jerusalem now exceeds 590,000. Nearly 90,000 settlers are living east of the separation barrier that was created by Israel itself. And just since July 2016 – when the Middle East Quartet issued a report highlighting international concern about a systematic process of land seizures, settlement expansions, and legalizations – Israel has advanced plans for more than 2,600 new settlement units. Yet rather than dismantling these and other settler outposts, which are illegal even under Israeli law, now there is new legislation advancing in the Israeli Knesset that would legalize most of the outposts – a factor that propelled the decision by this resolution’s sponsors to bring it before the Council.

The Israeli Prime Minister recently described his government as “more committed to settlements than any in Israel’s history,” and one of his leading coalition partners recently declared that “the era of the two-state solution is over.” At the same time, the Prime Minister has said that he is still committed to pursuing a two-state solution. But these statements are irreconcilable. One cannot simultaneously champion expanding Israeli settlements and champion a viable two-state solution that would end the conflict. One has to make a choice between settlements and separation.

In 2011, the United States vetoed a resolution that focused exclusively on settlements, as if settlements were they only factor harming the prospects of a two-state solution. The circumstances have changed dramatically. Since 2011, settlement growth has only accelerated. Since 2011, multiple efforts to pursue peace through negotiations have failed. And since 2011, President Obama and Secretary Kerry have repeatedly warned – publically and privately – that the absence of progress toward peace and continued settlement expansion was going to put the two-state solution at risk, and threaten Israel’s stated objective to remain both a Jewish State and a democracy. Moreover, unlike in 2011, this resolution condemns violence, terrorism and incitement, which also poses an extremely grave risk to the two-state solution. This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the hope of a two-state solution if they continue on their current course.

The United States has not taken the step of voting in support of this resolution because the resolution is too narrowly focused on settlements, when we all know – or we all should know – that many other factors contribute significantly to the tensions that perpetuate this conflict. Let us be clear: even if every single settlement were to be dismantled tomorrow, peace still would not be attainable without both sides acknowledging uncomfortable truths and making difficult choices. That is an indisputable fact. Yet it is one that is too often overlooked by members of the United Nations and by members of this Council.

For Palestinian leaders, that means recognizing the obvious: that in addition to taking innocent lives – the incitement to violence, the glorification of terrorists, and the growth of violent extremism erodes prospects for peace, as this resolution makes crystal clear. The most recent wave of Palestinian violence has seen terrorists commit hundreds of attacks – including driving cars into crowds of innocent civilians and stabbing mothers in front of their children. Yet rather than condemn these attacks, Hamas, other radical factions, and even certain members of Fatah have held up the terrorists as heroes, and used social media to incite others to follow in their murderous footsteps. And while President Abbas and his party’s leaders have made clear their opposition to violence, terrorism, and extremism, they have too often failed to condemn specific attacks or condemn the praised heaped upon the perpetrators.

Our vote today does not in any way diminish the United States’ steadfast and unparalleled commitment to the security of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. We would not have let this resolution pass had it not also addressed counterproductive actions by Palestinians. We have to recognize that Israel faces very serious threats in a very tough neighborhood. Israelis are rightfully concerned about making sure there is not a new terrorist haven next door. President Obama and this administration have shown an unprecedented commitment to Israel’s security because that is what we believe in.

Our commitment to that security has never wavered, and it never will. Even with a financial crisis and budget deficits, we’ve repeatedly increased funding to support Israel’s military. And in September, the Obama administration signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide $38 billion in security assistance to Israel over the next 10 years – the largest single pledge of military assistance in U.S. history to any country. And as the Israeli Prime Minister himself has noted, our military and intelligence cooperation is unprecedented. We believe, though, that continued settlement building seriously undermines Israel’s security.

Some may cast the U.S. vote as a sign that we have finally given up on a two-state solution. Nothing could be further from the truth. None of us can give up on a two-state solution. We continue to believe that that solution is the only viable path to provide peace and security for the state of Israel, and freedom and dignity for the Palestinian people. And we continue to believe that the parties can still pursue this path, if both sides are honest about the choices, and have the courage to take steps that will be politically difficult. While we can encourage them, it is ultimately up to the parties to choose this path, as it always has been. We sincerely hope that they will begin making these choices before it is too late.

I thank you.


Related First.One.Through articles:

The US Recognizes Israel’s Reality

In Defense of Foundation Principles

Samantha Power Breakthrough: Violence Erodes the Prospects for Peace

Nikki Haley Will Not Equivocate on the Ecosystem of Violence

The Many Lies of Jimmy Carter

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3 thoughts on “Comparing Nikki Haley’s and Samantha Power’s Speeches after UN Votes on Israel

  1. Pingback: Israel & the United States Repel the Force of the World | FirstOneThrough

  2. Pingback: The Middle East with American Leaders that Back Friends and Punish Enemies | FirstOneThrough

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