Congress Addresses Israel, Iran, and Nikki Haley

by Lara Friedman

[As we have over the past two years, LobeLog is posting excerpts from the Legislative Round-up published weekly when Congress is in session by the inimitable Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now about what Congress is up to and what individual members are saying, particularly about Israel-Palestine and Iran.]

It is still not clear when the SFRC will hold its hearing on the nomination of David Friedman to be the U.S. ambassador to Israel. Rumors were flying in recent days that the hearing could be as soon as next week or the week after.  With that in mind, please check out this new oped in the Hill, examining the ways in which Mr. Friedman has already disqualified himself from serving as ambassador to Israel (ways that have nothing to do with his personal views, but are grounded in his track record of direct involvement in Israel and Israeli politics.

Dates to keep in mind

J Street 2017 National Conference in Washington – February 25-28

AIPAC 2017 Policy Conference & lobby days – March 26-28

NORPAC 2017 Mission to Washington – May 17

Christians United for Israel (CUFI) national summit – July 17-18

Bills & Resolutions – Israel/Palestine

(LEGISLATING SUPPORT FOR SETTLEMENTS AT THE EXPENSE OF FREE SPEECH) S. 170: Introduced 1/17 by Rubio (R-FL) and Manchin (D-WV), and 17 bipartisan cosponsors, “A bill to provide for nonpreemption of measures by State and local governments to divest from entities that engage in commerce-related or investment-related boycott, divestment, or sanctions activities targeting Israel, and for other purposes.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  This bill is listed on the AIPAC website as part of AIPAC’s current lobbying agenda.

  • This bill is a new version (for the new Congress) of S. 2531 (in the House HR 4514), both of which died with the end of the last Congress. All these bills share the deceptive short title, the “Combating  BDS  Act” – deceptive because the actual focus and impact of the legislation is to protect and legitimize settlements (BDS against Israel remains a virtual non-issue economically – the ONLY impact of this legislation, and the state-level legislation it seeks to promote, is to punish companies that differentiate between Israel and settlements).
  • Like its progenitors, S. 170 purports to be about working against those “targeting Israel,” but the text of the bill explicitly defines “targeting Israel” to include actions focused on “Israeli-controlled territories.” This is code for settlements and is the real focus of the legislation, a fact made even more explicit by bill text expressing rejection to such action that are “for purposes of coercing political action by, or imposing policy positions on, the Government of Israel.”
  • Rubio makes this point even clearer in the press release issued with the bill, noting that this legislation is necessary due to the recent UN Security Council resolution on SETTLEMENTS, which Rubio argues “effectively encourages the BDS movement’s campaigns to commercially and financially target and discriminate against the Jewish state” [in reality it encourages differentiation between Israel and settlements].
  • Like its progenitors, S. 170 has strong bipartisan support – demonstrating that protecting settlements under the guise of standing up to BDS, even at the cost of free speech, remains a rare bipartisan issue in the new political order.
  • Specifically, S. 170, like its progenitors, is designed to give legal cover to state-level legislation blacklisting (and boycotting and divesting from) companies that differentiate between Israel and settlements (as required under EU rules. The press release issued by Rubio and Manchin (which, like the statements around S. 2531 and HR 4514 does not include even one word hinting at the real focus of the bill – protection of settlements) states that the legislation strengthens state-level efforts, “by affirming the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter economic warfare against Israel. Recognizing non-preemption, the bill clarifies that state and local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with entities engaged in BDS conduct when the designations are based on ‘credible information available to the public.’ The bill’s non-preemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give them an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically harm Israel.”
  • As documented in the Round-Up, S. 2531 was introduced 2/10/16 by Kirk (R-IL), who after pushing the (also bipartisan) measure for the rest of the year failed to get it passed, and then lost his Senate seat. But settlement supporters: have no fear! Rubio – who hired Kirk’s foreign policy staffer after Kirk lost his election – is apparently taking on the role of standard bearer on this effort in the Senate – as well as other efforts on which Kirk was previously the lead (including, so far, on legislation attacking the UN, as documented in Section 3, below). The lead on this measure in the House, Dold (R-IL), also lost his seat; we should know soon who is picking up the flag in his stead.
  • This bill is the latest in a long and growing list of legislation that seeks to hijack concerns about BDS against Israel in order to pass legislation giving unprecedented legitimacy and recognition to Israeli settlements by, in effect, making it U.S. policy to treat them as part of Israel (and to use concerns about BDS to undermine constitutionally-guaranteed civil rights). APN’s position opposing such measures, as well as our table (updated regularly) tracking these legislative initiatives in Congress, is here.
  • It come in the context of continuing campaign across the U.S. to have state legislatures adopt laws protecting/legitimizing settlements and sanctioning those who differentiate between Israel and settlements (under the guise of fighting BDS). Much of this legislation is also clearly unconstitutional, seeking to quash free speech. APN’s position opposing such measures, as well as our comprehensive table tracking these initiatives at the state-level, is here.
  • Press releases: Portman (R-OH),

(SLAMMING THE PALESTINIANS) H. Res. XXX: Introduced by Hastings (D-FL) and Woodall (R-GA), “Condemning Palestinian incitement and reaffirming the special bond between Israel and the United States.” NOTE: Hastings and Woodall put out their press releases announcing introduction of the resolution during a period when the House was not in session;  presumably that means they filed it but that it won’t show up as introduced until the House comes back next week. But not to worry: the published a pdf of the resolution with the press release.  This 28-page resolution lists 266 attacks by Palestinians against Israelis (including Israeli security forces) and in effect blames the Palestinian Authority for all of them.  Hastings press release is here; Woodall’s is here.

(MOVE THE $#^%& EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM) H. Con. Res. 11: Introduced 1/23 by Blackburn (R-TN) and Sherman (D-CA), “Expressing the sense of Congress that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and therefore, consistent with the location of other United States embassies, the United States embassy in Israel should be located in Jerusalem.” Referred to House Foreign Affairs Committee.

UPDATE (SLAMMING SETTLEMENTS UNSCR & OBAMA ADMIN) S. Res. 6: Introduced 1/4 by Rubio (R-FL), Cardin (D-MD) and, after what staffers describe as days and days of relentless lobbying, now boasting a bipartisan cosponsors list of 78 Senators, “A resolution objecting to United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 and to all efforts that undermine direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians for a secure and peaceful settlement.” As of this writing. S. Res. 6 remains stalled, with supporters of the resolution focusing their anger at Sen. Durbin (D-IL) for allegedly being the cause of the stall (see report in the Forward, Jewish Insider, and Free Beacon)

Bills & Resolutions – Iran

(NEW IRAN SANCTIONS) S.227: Introduced 1/24 by Rubio (R-FL), Young (R-IN) and Cornyn (R-TX), “A bill to impose nonnuclear sanctions with respect to Iran, and for other purposes,” aka the “Iran Non-nuclear Sanctions Act.” Referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Text is here; Rubio press release is here. Young (R-IN) press release is here. NOTE: This bill was previously introduced in December 2016, at the very end of the last Congress, as S. 3518 (as reported in the 12/16/16 edition of the Round-Up, where the prediction was also made that it would likely come up again in the next Congress).

(STOP IRAN COMMERCIAL AIR FLIGHT/US PLANE SALES) HR 566: Introduced 1/13 by Roskam (R-IL), Sherman (D-CA) and Zeldin (R-NY), “To require the President to report on the use by the Government of Iran of commercial aircraft and related services for illicit military or other activities, and for other purposes,” aka “the Terror-Free Skies Act.” Referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  Text here. Roskam 1/17 press release: Bipartisan Anti-Terror Bill Would End Iran-Syria-Hezbollah Air Bridg

Bills & Resolutions – the UN

(PUNISH UN) S. 169: Introduced 1/17 by Rubio (R-FL) and Cotton (R-AR), “A bill to counter anti-Semitism at the United Nations, and for other purposes,” aka, the “Countering Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israel Activities act.” Referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations. Text is available here. Rubio press release is here. Unsurprisingly, this bill has nothing to do with countering anti-Semitism and everything to do with trying to quash activities at the UN that are critical of Israel or that are otherwise opposed by some in Israel (and among right-wing supporters of Israel in the United States).

In this regard, Rubio and Cotton appear to have seized on UNSCR 2334 as an opportunity to pull together a grab bag of old and new ideas for Israel/Palestine-related ways to attack the UN. While there is no reason to believe that this particular bill will pass, the various elements of it merit close attention, as many/most are likely to come up again in other legislative vehicles:

  • Use “anti-Semitism” [undefined] as hook to go after entire UN system on notice: The bill makes it a top priority of the U.S. to have the UN Secretary General issue a directive requiring, among other things, (a) all UN employees to “publicly condemn anti-Semitic statements” made at any session or in any forum associated with the UN; (b) punitive action, including immediate firing, of any UN employees who make anti-Semitic statements or references; and (c) recommendations for mechanisms to hold employees accountable (and getting those mechanisms adopted in a General Assembly resolution). It also imposes a blanket ban on funding to the entire UN and all its agencies until the President certifies that no UN or UN affiliated agency “grants any official status, accreditation, or recognition to any organization which promotes or condones anti-Semitism.” The legislation does not define what it means by “anti-Semitism” but it is a good bet it is intended to mean actions/statements critical of Israel – meaning, at a minimum, that the bill is intended to shut down any and every Palestinian-related organization and activity affiliated with the UN.
  • Legitimize Settlements: The bill makes it U.S. policy to reject UNSCR 2334’s characterization of settlements as illegal, and prohibits US funding to any UN entity that “attempts to enforce” UNSCR 2334. Given that UNSCR 2334 has nothing specific or new in it to implement, it appears the idea here is for the U.S. to use UNSCR 2334 as a pretext to adopt a policy of actively defending settlements and punishing countries that differentiate between Israel and settlements.
  • De-fund & boycott the UN’s Human Rights Council: The bill would bar any funding to that body and barring the US from running for a seat on that body unless the Secretary of State certifies (annually) that the UNHRC’s agenda “does not include a permanent item related to the State of Israel or the Palestinian territories.”
  • Go after UNRWA & Palestinian refugees: The bill would bar any funding for UNRWA unless the Secretary certifies that UNRWA has met a list of conditions (all or most already required) and makes it a Sense of Congress that (a) the US should lobby other nations to also bar funding to UNRWA unless it jumps through the hoops required by the U.S. Congress, and (b) UNRWA should redefine “Palestine refugee” to effectively define the Palestinian refugee issue out of existence (notwithstanding the fact that Israel has agreed that this is an issue to be resolved in negotiations, and notwithstanding the fact that Palestinians who consider themselves refugees do so because that is their history/narrative, NOT because the UN or anyone else gives them “permission” to do so), and (c) it should be the goal of the U.S. to eliminate UNRWA and have the newly-diminished pool of re-defined” Palestine refugees put under the authority of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This effort to, in effect, impose a “solution” on the Palestinians with respect to refugees is not new. For an explanation of why it is misguided and won’t work, see here and here; previous efforts in the Senate include an effort in 2012 by then-Senator Kirk (R-IL, which a staffer involved in the effort made clear was explicitly designed to “have major implications for future negotiations over final status issues with regard to refugees” (full details here); and in the House include HR 3829 (2015); HR 5647 (2014) and HR 5065 (2010). And for folks who thinking handing the Palestinian refugees over to UNHCR would “resolve” the Palestinian refugee issue, check out this interview with UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, which explodes that myth and related ones.
  • Lay groundwork for cutting UN funding to punish countries that differentiate between Israel & settlements: With “implement UN Security Council Resolution 2334” understood as code for “refuse to treat settlements as no different from sovereign Israel,” this bill requires an annual report to Congress – to be made public – identifying in great detail UN assistance programs to which the U.S. contributes that are for countries that refuse to treat settlements as part of Israel (with the report clearly designed to provide a roadmap for future cuts in funding).
  • Lay groundwork for cutting U.S. aid to countries that vote “against” Israel at the UN: Adds to an already required report to Congress a new requirement for “a separate section detailing the voting records of each member country on resolutions that condemn the Government of Israel.” It requires, alongside this, a table “detailing the amount of direct United States foreign assistance provided to each member country alongside the voting comparison…”(with the report clearly designed to provide a roadmap for future cuts in funding).
  • Report to Congress on erasing any distinction between “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Israel” (and nowhere defining either): The bill requires an annual report to Congress by the Secretary of State, covering “all activities” that “can be construed [does not say by whom] to exhibit an anti-Israel or anti-Semitic bias, including official statements, proposed resolutions, and United Nations investigations.” The report must also include “the use of United Nations resources to promote anti-Semitic or anti-Israel views…” and “the propagation, dissemination, or incitement of anti-Israel or anti-Semitic rhetoric or propaganda at the United Nations,” and “specific actions taken by the United States Government to address the instances of anti-Israel or anti-Semitic activity at the United Nations…”

Bills & Resolutions – Other Matters

(US-ISRAEL CYBERSECURITY COOPERATION) HR 612: Introduced 1/23 by Langevin (R-RI) and Ratcliffe (R-TX), “To establish a grant program at the Department of Homeland Security to promote cooperative research and development between the United States and Israel on cybersecurity.” Referred to the House Committee on Homeland Security.

(FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM IN EUROPE) S. 198 and HR 672: Introduced 1/24 in the Senate by Rubio (R-FL) and Kaine (D-VA), plus 10 bipartisan co-sponsors; and in the House by Lowey (D-NY) 6 bipartisan cosponsors, the “Combatting European Anti-Semitism Act.” Referred to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively. NOTE:  This is a re-introduction of legislation offered last year (S.3478 and HR 6208). For details, see the 11/18/16 edition of the Round-Up. Rubio-Kaine press release is here.

(WELCOMING **ONLY** CHRISTIAN & YAZIDI REFUGEES) HR 565: Introduced 1/13 by Rohrabacher (R-CA) and 5 GOP cosponsors, “To recognize that Christians and Yazidis in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and Libya are targets of genocide, and to provide for the expedited processing of immigrant and refugee visas for such individuals, and for other purposes.” Referred to House Foreign Affairs Committee.

(KEEP HEAT ON ARGENTINA OVER AMIA BOMBING) H. Res. 54 & S. Res. 18: Bipartisan resolutions introduced 1/23 in the House by Rep. Sires (D-NJ) and three cosponsors, and by Sen. Coons (D-DE) and three cosponsors, “reaffirming the United States-Argentina partnership and recognizing Argentina’s economic reforms.” The final “resolved” clause states: “encourages the Government of Argentina to continue to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, as well as the January 2015 death of AMIA special prosecutor Alberto Nisman.” Coons press release is here.


2/2: The House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Middle East and North Africa & Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, will hold a joint hearing entitled, “Israel, the Palestinians, and the United Nations: Challenges for the New Administration.” Scheduled witnesses will be: Hillel Neuer, UN Watch; Brett Schaefer, The Heritage Foundation; Jonathan Schanzer, Foundation for Defense of Democracies; and Robert Wexler, the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. [To get a sense of HFAC priorities, this will be the second hearing of the new Congress, preceded only by a hearing 2/1 on US-UK trade relations].

On the Record

Rogers (R-AL) 1/26: Rogers Applauds President Trump’s UN Proposal [“Most recently, the UN Security Council sided with Palestine and passed a resolution condemning Israel’s settlements in Jerusalem. Attacks against one of the United States’ greatest allies are just the most recent chapter in the UN’s dangerous agenda.]

DeSantis (R-FL) 1/26: DeSantis Names Advisory Council for Israel and Middle East Issues [led by Jason Lyons – full list in press release]. “The Advisory Council for Israel and Middle East Security will help develop policies to help facilitate a more productive American posture in the Middle East, which includes moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital, Jerusalem.”

Farenthold (R-TX) 1/26: Tweet – “The UN should receive no funds until it repeals its anti-Israel resolution. That’s why I’m cosponsoring #HR373” [Gohmert’s de-fund the UN bill]

Pittinger (R-NC) 1/25: Chairman Pearce, Vice Chairman Pittenger condemn President Obama’s last minute funding of terrorism [funding for PA]

Duncan (R-SC) 1/25: On Haley confirmation as UN Amb: “…I believe she will work hard to protect our national sovereignty, stand up for our friend and ally Israel, and vigorously defend our country’s national interests.”

McCaul (R-TX) 1/25: Oped on FoxNews – Obama “remained consistent to the very end—feverishly implementing a misguided nuclear deal with the world’s number-one state sponsor of terror, Iran, while deliberately allowing one of our closest partners, Israel, to get ambushed at the United Nations.”

Moulton (D-MA) 1/24: tweet – “Both Dems and Repubs support a 2-state solution. Trump’s nominee for Amb. to Israel Friedman calls it a ‘scam.’ He’s an obstacle to peace.”

HFAC plan for 2017 1/24: “The Committee will continue to closely review U.S. policy toward Iran, with special focus on the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action… The Committee will also review and work to address the threat posed by Iran’s ballistic missile development, state sponsorship of terrorism and growing influence in Iraq and the region, as well as the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses.” And  “…the Committee will carefully review U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa, to include: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the overall status of the Middle East peace process…” and “the Committee will closely review all aspects of U.S. funding of, and participation in, international organizations. Close attention will be paid to the extent to which such funding and participation advances U.S. interests and values, protects the integrity of U.S. taxpayer dollars, counters unwarranted bias against Israel, and leads to increased transparency, accountability, and reform of those organizations…”

Udall (D-NM) 1/24: On his “no” vote on Haley as UN Amb, “…I am troubled by her positions on several central issues, which ultimately convinced me that I could not support her confirmation. For example, she has indicated that she opposes the historic nuclear agreement with Iran, a deal which Defense Secretary Mattis has stated we must uphold.”

Deutch (D-FL) 1/24: Rep. Deutch to Lead Democrats on Ethics Committee; Returns as Ranking Democrat of Middle East Subcommittee

Cardin (D-MD) 1/24: On Haley vote, “I especially appreciated that she does not support efforts to slash American funding to the U.N. and that she would consistently vocalize U.S. values, including universal human rights, good governance, and press and religious freedom, while seeking to cooperate with other nations, keep our ally and friend Israel’s interests close at heart, and push the U.N. to make reforms toward greater transparency and accountability.”

Burr (R-NC) 1/24: On Haley vote, “Her pledge to support Israel, our closest ally in the region, will rebuild a critical relationship.”

Gardner (R-CO) 1/24: Endorsing Haley as UN Amb ,“The UN is in desperate need of U.S. leadership, particularly when it comes to standing up for one of our closest allies, Israel, and standing up to rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea.…”

Portman (R-OH) 1/24: On his support for Haley as UN Amb, “I was reassured by Governor Haley’s responses during our hearing, and her commitment to promote U.S. national security interests, stand up for our allies such as Israel, and better engage and respond to the disinformation and propaganda campaigns being waged by Russia, China, and others.”

Heinrich (D-NM) 1/23: On his opposition to Pompeo as CIA director, “…given his deep antipathy toward the Iran Agreement, I have serious concerns about his ability to be objective on this issue, which is critical to the stability of the Middle East and to our efforts to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon…

Casey (D-PA) 1/23: On Pompeo as CIA director, “Representative Mike Pompeo and I have a fundamental disagreements on some key policy issues, including the Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This agreement cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and it must be strictly enforced and constantly verified. Representative Pompeo has consistently opposed the JCPOA.”

Portman (R-OH) 1/23: On his support for Tillerson as SecState, “I was reassured by Mr. Tillerson’s responses to my questions during his confirmation hearing in which he confirmed America’s unconditional support for the NATO Article V security guarantee, pledged not to lift sanctions on Russia or accept a change in the U.S. position on Crimea without the agreement of the Ukrainian people and committed to stand with Israel, including combatting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.”

McCaul (R-TX) 1/23: Oped in The Hill – “In his final weeks in office, Obama boasted about his efforts to take the fight to terrorists overseas, all while releasing final batches of inmates from Guantanamo Bay—knowing that many are likely to return to the fight. And he emphasized his administration’s work to repair U.S. alliances, all while snubbing a close friend, Israel, at the United Nations and doubling down on a misguided deal with a persistent enemy, Iran.”

Nikki Haley Confirmation Hearing – Israel/Palestine/Iran Excerpts

On 1/18/17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for Governor Nikki Haley to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (she was subsequently confirmed by the Senate 1/24 by a vote of 96-4). Confirmation hearings for this particular position always focus disproportionately on Israel, given perpetual Congressional objections to virtually anything the UN has done related to Israel (that is, everything since the UN acted to bring the state of Israel into existence). This hearing was the same, but even moreso, given last month’s UN Security Council Resolution on Israeli settlements (Resolutions 2334) and the renewed focus (mainly but not exclusively from GOP senators) on undermining/killing the Iran nuclear deal.  Haley’s prepared statement is here. Video of the entire 3.5 hour hearing is here.

Key excerpts of Haley’s exchanges with SFRC members – related to Israel, the Palestinians, and Iran – are included below. [One interesting note: on several occasions Chairman Corker (R-TN) intervened to “help” Haley clarify her positions.]

One thing Democrats & Republicans can agree on: the UN is biased against Israel

Cardin (D-MD): …One of the persistent weaknesses across the UN system has been its bias and ugly approach to issues related to Israel. This must end. The responsibility for doing so starts with the member states and our ambassador, if confirmed, with your voice. United States must continue to use its voice and its vote to call out and push back against resolutions and other actions that aim to isolate Israel, our unique ally in the Middle East. I remain deeply disappointed by the UN Security Council’s passage of a blatantly one-sided resolution this December and it is absolutely unacceptable, though telling, that the attendees at that session applauded after Resolution 2334’s passage, underscoring the isolation and bias against Israel…

Haley: …nowhere has the UN’s failure been more consistent and more outrageous than it is — than its bias against our close ally Israel. In the General Assembly session just completed, the UN adopted 20 resolutions against Israel, and only six targeting the rest of the world’s countries combined. In the past ten years, the Human Rights council has passed 62 resolutions condemning the reasonable actions Israel takes to defend its security. Meanwhile, the world’s worst human rights abusers in Syria, Iran, and North Korea, received far fewer condemnations. This cannot continue. It is in this context that the events of December 23rd were so damaging. Last month’s passage of UN Resolution 2334 was a terrible mistake, making a peace agreement with the Israelis and the Palestinians even harder to achieve. The mistake was compounded by the location in which it took place, in light of the UN’s long history of anti-Israel bias. I was the first governor in America to sign legislation combatting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions or the BDS Movement. I will not go to New York and abstain when the UN seeks to create an international environment that encourages boycotts of Israel. In fact, I pledge to you this: 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. …more and more Americans 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 UN’s mistreatment of Israel, its failure to prevent the North Korean nuclear threat, its waste and corruption, and they are fed up…

Key Goal: Repairing the “damage” from the settlements UNSCR (maybe by moving the embassy?

Johnson (R-WI): I agree with your assessment of the real harm, the damage of the most recent anti-Israel resolution. What can we do to repair the damage? You have given that any thought?

Haley: I have given it a lot of thought and I think it’s going to take time and effort by more than just me. First we need to go and make sure that we let Israel know that we are an ally and that we will be an ally and it is important because what happened with Resolution 2334, it basically said that being an ally to the United States doesn’t mean anything. And if we are a strong ally, if we always stand with them, more countries will want to be our allies and those that challenge us will think twice before they challenge us. What we saw with 2334 was, it not only sent a bad signal to Israel, it told the entire world that we don’t stand with anyone. And I think that was a terrible mistake and we have to come out strong, we have to be incredibly vocal, we need to probably fight harder than we’ve fought before and it won’t just be me. It needs to be from this Congress. It needs to be from the National Security Council and the President-Elect and we need to speak with one voice.

Johnson: I was in Israel the Sunday before that resolution and I had about an hour long meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and we talked about that. Tried to push back on it but I don’t think there was anything we could have done to deter this Administration from poking a stick in his eye and Israel’s eye. Certainly saw the Consulate there in Jerusalem. Have you taken a position – would you support moving the Embassy from Tel Aviv to into that Consulate? It’s really just a matter of changing a sign. Could that be one of the actions we could take to repair the damage?

Haley: Absolutely. Not only is that what Israel wants, but this Congress has said that’s what they support.

UN should stop slamming Israel & worry about real issues like Syria & North Korea

Young (R-PA): In your prepared statement you cite some of the failures of the United Nations and they’re multi-faceted. Mistreatment of Israel, preventing the North Korea nuclear threat. I think the failure to act on Syria also belongs on the long list of UN failures…This is a genocide…

Haley: Absolutely.

Young: I don’t think we remind the American people and the international community frequently enough that a genocide has occurred here. Would you agree that the UN Security Council has failed with respect to the Assad regime and the catastrophe in Syria?

Haley: Yes.

Young: In your opinion, why did the Council fail to act more forcefully with respect to the Assad regime in the catastrophe in Syria?

Haley: I look forward to getting into the UN and finding out why they think hitting Israel is so much more important…

But We Still Support Two-States, Right?

Murphy (D-CT): Now, we talked earlier about UN Resolution 2334. This was a resolution about Israeli settlements. These settlements have been greatly expanded in recent years. The settlement dispute goes way way back many many years. Ronald Reagan said in 1982, and this is his statement, ‘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.’ That position on settlements has been a bipartisan policy of the United States going back to President Johnson. Are the settlements that break up the possibility of a future contiguous Palestinian state harmful to achieving a two-state solution in your opinion?

Haley: I think what was harmful to achieving the two-state solution was Resolution 2334[!!!] because the whole goal has been to have Israel and the Palestinian Authority at the table talking. That should be the role of the United Nations and as we go forward is to support that. When we basically abstained from 2334, we made Israel more vulnerable. We made America more vulnerable in that we don’t stand by our allies. We need to let the two bodies resolve this themselves. That is what has always taken place and I think it’s dangerous when the UN starts to tell two different bodies what should and shouldn’t happen.

Murphy: All those things you said were also in Samantha Power’s statements, but are you committed on settlements to the bipartisan policy that has stood for over 50 years in this country on the UN, the bipartisan policy our country has taken on settlements.

Haley: I do understand the issue on settlements. I will continue to — I do understand how they think that could hinder peace, but at the same time I will always stand with Israel and make sure that they know we’re an ally and the rest of the world knows that we’re an ally.

Murphy: The question is, are you committed to the bipartisan policy on settlements and the expansion of settlements?

Haley: Yes, I am.

Corker: If I understand correctly what she’s saying is she…she supports a two-state solution but understands the parties themselves have got to resolve it and the UN Security Council inserting themselves into that process as it has been can be very detrimental.

Haley: Yes, thank you.

Murphy: Mr. Chairman, the statement – and I’d like to put the full statement of our UN ambassador Samantha Powers in the record at this point – she said what you [Haley] have said. That the United States supports the two-state solution, many of the things that our ambassadorial-designate states here. But the issue of the resolution, the issue was about an expanded settlement policy. And she [Haley] has committed to stand with that bipartisan policy which I believe you answered the question ‘yes’ when I said…Are you going to stand with the bipartisan policy that not only this administration but every administration since President Johnson has supported on the expansion of settlements.

Haley: And I want to clarify, because I don’t want there to be any grey in this: what I think happened with 2334 was a kick in the gut to everyone. And, so, we can think what we want to think on settlements, but you have to go back to the fact that the U.S. abstention, when that has not happened since 2011 at all, against Israel, was wrong. And I think the fact that we have not allowed the Palestinian Authority and Israel to resolve this themselves is wrong. And I think for the UN to have inserted themselves into that, I believe is wrong. So I want to make sure that I’m clear on record as to saying what I think about Resolution 2334.

Corker: I think there may be some factual dispute about your last statement, and I think we had some discussion about that in committee. I just want to – I didn’t want to leave that last statement hanging without a retort.

We Can Better Defend Israel if We’re Active at UN

Murphy: I’ll just note that since rejoining the [UN’s] Human Rights Council – we were out of it from 2007 to 2009 – once we rejoined, special sessions on Israel dropped by 50%, and resolutions on Israel dropped by 30%. So engagement in these forums do matter.


Portman (R-OH): Israel’s been talked about today. Obviously a big issue at the UN and I would agree with what was said today about the fact that this relationship is a cornerstone of our strategy in the Middle East. They are our best ally in the region. They are the one democracy in the Middle East. Let me focus on one specific issue, which is the Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions movement – BDS. And this is something that I’ve worked on over the years, actually with Ben Cardin, the ranking member here. In fact we’ve both a number of legislative solutions, one of which is the law of the land now, it was passed as part of the Trade Promotion Authority bill that requires us to look at BDS as a trade negotiating objective in our trade agreements, which is an historic change in the way the U.S. has dealt with this. Can you talk a little bit about that? What do you think should be done with regard to countering boycott, divestment and sanctions efforts against Israel? Really, in a sense of trying to delegitimize Israel? And a little but about your experience in South Carolina with regard to this issue?

Haley: Well, first of all, very proud to say as governor of South Carolina, that we were the first state in the country to pass an anti-BDS law in our state. And so that was trying to really make the point of how important we think it is. I think as we go to the UN that is a point that has to be made. We have to look at the fact and call out the fact: why is it that the Security Council is so concerned with Israel. It is an obsession that they have with Israel, where they don’t have with North Korea, where they don’t have with Syria, where they don’t have with other things that are going on. And so it is up to us to talk about the fact that you can’t have boycotts against a country that is just trying to protect its people. I think you’re finding an authority, not a state, that is actually leading the charge on this. And I think that that’s wrong. I think that we’re gonna have to continue to really be more aggressive, call them out, let them know what’s wrong, and then find out what their answers are. Because there is no good, fair, honest, answer on why they continue to pick on Israel and why they continue to allow these things to happen.

Coming Back to that Two-State Thing…

Booker (D-NJ): …Do you support a two-state solution?

Haley: I do.

Booker: Do you believe that it advances U.S. interests to provide food, jobs, homes, and hope to the people of the West Bank and Gaza, by decreasing the pool of potential recruits, or radicalized individuals to join terrorist organizations like Hamas?

Haley: Yes. I mean I think that we need to do whatever we can to protect the region and I think that we need to make sure we are doing all we can to go against the threat.

Booker: And I’m grateful for your very strong steadfast statements in terms of support of Israel and pointing out what even a former UN Secretary-General has pointed out about the biased nature of the UN against Israel. But security for Israel is something that is of critical import to me and there are serious issues around the security. But again, as a security guarantor, does the aid that the UN provides save the government of Israel the expense of providing assistance to the people of the West Bank? In other words, a lot of the work that the UN is doing to provide basic humanitarian aid, uplifting the dignity of people, access to clean water – are these things critical as a larger part of Israeli security, and that of the beauty and the dignity of the Palestinian people?

Haley: I think it is. It’s something I want to get more information on. But I think that anytime we can help mankind, regardless of where they are and what country they’re in, the United States has always been there. So I do think that anytime we can create peace, then we want to do that. So certainly any services that we’re giving to that area right now we’ll continue to look into and work on.

JERUSALEM IS NOT A SETTLEMENT (& the proper term for the West Bank is “JUDEA & SAMARIA”)

Rubio (R-FL): …this is related to one of your answers, but I think for a point of clarification, because I know you were asked about the recent Security Council resolution with regards to Israel and the Palestinian question, I think you recognize that as part of that agreement, it assumed, for example, that portions of Jerusalem are occupied territory. That portions of Jerusalem are, therefore, by definition, settlements. I believe you would agree when I say that Jerusalem is not a settlement.

Haley: Right. I agree.

Rubio: And that — so you continue to see — it’s important to understand, I think that’s what the Chairman was getting at when he talked about some dispute over the meaning of that resolution, that it in fact assumed and accepted as fact the notion that basically any Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria constitutes a settlement. And so I think that’s the key point. I also think it’s not true to say that this is the long-standing policy of the U.S. to somehow try to organize and utilize international organisms to force a negotiation. What has in fact been a bipartisan commitment, and I think certainly what our partners in Israel would like to see, is a negotiation between the two parties involved, with assistance from the international community as a forum, potentially. But certainly not by pre-imposing conditions and the like. And I guess my question, you’ve already answered this: had you been the UN ambassador, and had been asked to abstain on a vote of this kind, would you have agreed to do so?

Haley: I never would have abstained. I don’t like when legislators abstain. I certainly think that it’s — it has to be a huge exception when you do abstain. I think that that was the moment that we should have told the world how we stand with Israel. And it was a kick in the gut that we didn’t.

And Back Again To That Two-State thing…

Kaine (D-VA): With respect to Israel-Palestine, you answered a direct question from Senator Murphy about whether you believe the long-standing bipartisan U.S. policy with respect to the goal would be a two-state solution between the Jewish state of Israel and Arab state of Palestine, that was the phraseology of the original 1947 UN resolution. To the best of your knowledge, is the Trump administration committed to maintaining that 70-year bipartisan commitment?

Haley: I have not heard anything different.

Kaine: If as U.S. ambassador to the UN there are actions taken by Palestine – violence, incitement, rocket attacks from Gaza – that threaten the prospects of peace, would you be firm in calling those out?

Haley: I will be firm in calling out anyone that is trying to disrupt peace around the world.

Kaine: And so if it’s Palestinian actions or Israeli actions that you think threaten the bipartisan commitment toward a two-state solution, you wouldn’t hesitate to speak out?

Haley: I think we will always have those conversations. What forum we have those conversations in may be different. But yes, I will always have those conversations.

Kaine: This committee forwarded a resolution to the floor last week stating the U.S. should not allow Security Council actions that would either dictate peace terms or recognize unilateral Palestinian actions but would instead encourage the parties to find the path forward. It was reported out unanimously. We’ve all been disappointed by the lack of progress on this issue. How could you use your role as UN ambassador to help find — it may not seem like it’s right around the corner, but we always have to be trying to help find – a path toward achieving the goal that we’ve had for so very long?

Haley: I think as important as it is for the United States to see Israel as an ally, it’s just as important for us to want peace in that area. And so I think it’s important that we support the two coming to the table, that they continue to have those discussions. And that we encourage other Security Council members, rather than putting forth or allowing resolutions like that, to instead show their support for how they want the two to come together and have those discussions.

Um, Didja Even Read the JCPOA?

Kaine: You indicated that you were an opponent of the Iran deal. Would you support the U.S. unilaterally backing out of the Iran deal at this point?

Haley: I think what would be more beneficial at this point is that we look at all the details of the Iran deal. We see if they are actually in compliance. If we find that there are violations then we act on those violations. I think that — and watching that very closely is important. What we did is we gave the state sponsor of terrorism a pass. That even after ten years, they will not be held to any sort of prohibitions on building nuclear weapons. And we gave them billions of dollars to do it. So I believe that if that has passed, and if that is where it is, we need to hold them accountable and watch them as we go forth.

Kaine: I would encourage you to read the agreement. Because what you just stated about the agreement is quite inaccurate. There are many, many restrictions in the agreement, after ten years specific restrictions in perpetuity. The first paragraph of the agreement says that Iran pursuant to the agreement will never develop, acquire or otherwise construct a nuclear weapon. So the notion that there’s no restrictions after 10 years, I don’t know where you got that from. The notion that we gave them money, we didn’t give them anything. There was money that was Iran’s that had been frozen. We released access to it so they could get money that was theirs, in exchange for their agreement to restrict their nuclear weapons program and guarantee in perpetuity not only not have nuclear weapons, but allow inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that accurately reported to this body that Iraq didn’t have a nuclear weapons program, and we disbelieved them and started a war and found out that they were right. So I would encourage you to read the agreement, because if you think those things, I can see why you were against it. And I can see why you might want to back out of it. But actually, that is a completely inaccurate reflection of the agreement. I would also encourage you to speak to intelligence and military officials in Israel, many of whom now say they think the agreement is working with respect to the nuclear aspect of Iran’s activity. There’s other activity that’s very troubling, that we obviously need to be very aggressive in countering

Haley: I would just say that while, yes, I will look into that, what we all need to remember is a nuclear Iran is very dangerous for the entire world. And it is important that we look at all the details of the agreement, which I will do, and make sure that they are actually following through on the promises that were made.

Kaine: I appreciate that.

Corker: And I think your emphasis was on radically or strongly enforcing the agreement as it sits.

Haley: That is correct.

Don’t Even Bother Reading the Iran Deal!

Risch (R-ID): My good friend Senator Kaine I agree with sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. His description of the wonderfulness of this Iran agreement in my judgment is 180 from what the facts are in real life. One of the primary objections that a lot of us had to the Iran agreement was something that you alluded to, and that is the fact that although a lot of us, both publicly and privately, urged the Administration to take Iran by the throat, and if you’re gonna to make them change their behavior, make them change their behavior. You can’t take a bad kid in the classroom and say you’re throwing spit balls, you’ve got to stop that. The kid says, okay, I’ll do it. And not only that, you’re also throwing erasers around, what happened? Well the kid says, I’m not going to do that, but I will stop throwing the spitballs. You can’t do that. These people needed to change their behavior. They have not changed their behavior. Your characterization of us giving billions to them that they’re gonna be able to use to go out and finance terrorism is absolutely accurate. My friends on the other side had their eyes absolutely closed on that as we went forward. And they were financing — they were the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism when they were broke. What do you think’s going to happen after we’ve given them billions of dollars? This is gonna be awful. With all due respect to my friends on the other side, particularly Senator Kaine who I admire, they’re just dead wrong on that issue. Having said that, as far as the Iran deal is concerned, we’ve got sanctions in place that deal with other things than just the nuclear agreement. And I know a lot of people are just ignoring that, including Iran itself. It’s complaining, oh, they’re not agreeing, they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do on the sanctions, but they forget they’re still sponsoring terrorism. The fact that they launched a missile in absolute contravention of a UN resolution that prohibited that within days of that after it was signed shows you how they feel about all…

Risch: You did make the statement that says, well, sanctions by us alone don’t work. I want to — our experience on this committee, and on the Intelligence Committee I sit on, I can tell you that sanctions by us alone do work. Now, I will agree with you, they don’t work nearly as well as if we’ve got everybody onboard. But because of our control over the financial and banking sectors on this earth, we can really have some substantial effect by ourselves. When you get right up against it, if we put sanctions on other countries, other banking institutions are going to have to make a choice: are they going to deal with American institutions or are they going to deal with Iranian institutions or whatever country we’re talking about. And that always resolves in our favor. It has to resolve in our favor…

Haley: If I could clarify. Sanctions obviously do work, I just think they work better if we have allies with us.

Risch: Absolutely, no question about it. That was one of our objections, too.

Haley: And then the second thing is the sanctions have to be enforced.

Risch: Absolutely, they have to be enforced aggressively. That was one of our objections also to the Iran deal. They kept talking about the snap-back provisions. Well, I want to see the heroes put that genie back in the bottle and snap back. That’s just flat not gonna happen. We’re going to have to rely on our own sanctions if we get to that point. And I for one am ready to do that.

So What About Cutting Funding to the UN?

Paul (R-KY): There’s a bill floating around to try to withhold UN dues until the vote on the UN on Israel settlements is reversed. Without asking you specifically on that, what do you think of the concept of withholding UN dues based on UN behavior?

Haley: Senator, I don’t believe in the slash-and-burn approach. You know, as a governor, you could never do that. That’s not effective. I know many legislators will put bills out of frustration and I absolutely understand the frustration over Resolution 2334, but I think it’s important that we are strategic in the way that we hold dues. Yes, I do see a place where you can hold dues. I do think it needs to be strategic in nature. I would want to use Congress as my heavy and leverage in terms of doing that so that I could get members of the Council to do the things that we need it to do – but yes, I do think there are times where you can withhold dues. I don’t think you should slash and cut across the board. Because I don’t think that will accomplish the goal.

Let’s Bash the UN & UNSCR 2334 Some More!

Barrasso (R-WY): …I think this last administration has actually been using the UN aggressively to bypass Congress to support Iran, to attack our closest ally, Israel, to attack American energy. So the question to you is, as our nation’s top representative at the United Nations, I think you have to be committed to standing up for American ideals, American values, our standards. So can you talk a little about that, about your commitment to challenging the actions of the United Nations that run counter to our values, our interests, our ideals?

Haley: I think that that’s a very good question because the United Nations, I think, has overstepped. And when you look at Resolution 2334 there is no better example of how they’ve overstepped. And I think there’s a role for the United Nations and I think that is in negotiating deals, in telling what our story is, in talking about America’s values and ideals and freedoms, and what makes us the best country in the world. And we need to continue to use the UN forum to show what we are for and what we are against and what we won’t tolerate. But having said that, I think the UN is not a place to insert into what other countries do and is not a place to actually take action without Congress having a strong support of it or without the President-Elect and the National Security Council.

Barrasso: I want to get back to Resolution 2334. I think that’s just part of an ongoing strategy to undermine our friends in Israel. 2011 UNESCO voted to allow Palestine as a member state in the organization. It triggered a law that we have in the United States cutting off contributions to UNESCO. Can you talk about the United States in terms of opposing Palestinian efforts to obtain full membership at any UN agency or organization?

Haley: Absolutely. Because we don’t recognize the Palestinian Authority as a state. I think we will not, whether it’s funding UNESCO and the fact we stopped that – I think that was a good move to do that – or whether it’s something where they are trying to insert themselves to be a member, which they tried to do. And I think that now we have to make sure we continue to hold that ground on that front. I that that there are more and more attempts to try and do that. So far they have failed but we have to make sure we do that, because I do think they are still getting in through resolutions and issues that are happening. That’s all the more reason we have to stand strong.

So Yes to Cutting Funds to UN?

Coons (D-DE): About UN reform, if we were to simply – as some have suggested in order to punish the UN for the Security Council taking a vote which I think we have unanimously opposed – if we were to simply cut funding to the UN, would that strengthen or weaken our hand in defending Israel at the UN?

Haley: Well, as I’ve said, you can never win with slash-and-burn techniques. That doesn’t work. What is important is that we do strategic types of cutting if we are going to cut anything at all. And so I don’t agree with that. I don’t think that that’s the way that we can come out strong and show our strength in terms of what we believe in and what we’re against. And I think it’s better to do that with negotiations and I do think than just slash and burn.

Gotta Get Tougher on Iran (UNSCRs say so – and these UNSCRS, unlike 2334, MUST BE RESPECTED)

Menendez (D-NJ): UN resolution 2231 specifically “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Since it was adopted at the Security Council, Iran has launched at least ten ballistic missiles. Earlier this month a report from the United Nations indicated Iran is likely in violation of these resolutions because of arms shipments to Hezbollah and possibly to rebels in Somalia and Yemen. The UN Security Council arms embargo and ballistic missiles sanctions require not just compliance of Iran but also member states to enforce them. If Iran violates both the ballistic missile sanctions, as has been universally recognized, and violates the arms embargo, do you plan to use your position at the United Nations to try to create a coalition to hold Iran accountable?

Haley: Absolutely. And any time we put sanctions forward, we should follow through on those when there are violations.

Menendez: Now, in doing so, do you also plan to leverage against those – I wanted to underline the emphasis that yes, Iran is responsible, but so are other member countries not to allow Iran to have the wherewithal to do that in terms of suppliers and other things. Will you also seek to pursue them as well?

I think we have to call out anyone who is helping Iran do anything. And I think that the other side of that is we are seeing more and more where Iran is not allowing us access to see if violations are occurring and that’s also going to be something we’re gonna have to be careful of.

Photo of Nikki Haley by Camlin Moore via Flickr.

Lara Friedman

Lara Friedman is the president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the director of policy and government relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew.



  1. Dear Lara has such patience and even manages to keep a sense of humor and proportion. To read ,“The UN is in desperate need of U.S. leadership, particularly when it comes to standing up for one of our closest allies, Israel, and standing up to rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea.…”
    and to hear some of the statements and questions from “US Reps” and the “US Ambassador to the UN” makes me wonder if they are really Americans at all, interested in America’s place in the world and the way it is seen internationally. David Friedman (obviously no relation to LARA) is not by any means the only unsuitable person in the job of representing the USA.

    The pretense of Haley to support the two-State solution and to PROTECT the Palestinians along with all the rest of her testimony and the references to Iran and Syria show her to be the usual biased, AIPAC-infected candidate who will follow in the shoes of such illustrious predecessors as Samantha Power, Susan Rice, John Bolton, John Negroponte, Madeleine Albright and Jeane Kirkpatrick. Good luck to the USA, the UN and our best ally, Israel!!!

  2. Perhaps Nikki Haley will tell us what Muslims living in the occupied West Bank should do, to accommodate Israeli expansionism and sustained illegal settlement activity in their country.

    Haley’s maiden speech at the UN made me cringe.

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