WASHINGTON, D.C. - Governor Nikki Haley, Donald Trump's pick for UN ambassador, said on Wednesday she is committed to the bipartisan consensus in the U.S. against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
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Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for her first confirmation hearing, Haley, the Republican governor of South Carolina, was asked during the hearing about Israel. Though she supports relocating the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Trump suggested he will do, Haley noted she is also a proponent of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying she understands how settlements "can hinder peace."
Haley criticized the Obama administration for not vetoing UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which challenged the legality of settlements. The resolution, she said, was "harmful" to the two-state solution and added that it was "a kick in the gut" to Israel. The UN is not the right forum to deal with issues like the settlements and Palestinian statehood, she said. When asked if her position regarding the settlements was also accepted by the Trump administration, she replied she has "no reason to believe otherwise."
Haley said she opposes defunding the UN, as Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is from Haley's home state, suggested. The two said last week they would propose legislation to cut American funding to the United Nations until the anti-settlements resolution reverses it.
"I do not believe we need to pull money from the UN," she said. "I don't believe in slash-and-burn." Haley pointed out, however, that the United States contributes "22 percent of the UN’s budget, far more than any other country." She added: "We are a generous nation. But we must ask ourselves what good is being accomplished by this disproportionate contribution."
It was unclear where the incoming administration stands on these issues and whether Haley's positions represent the policy that will be implemented after Trump takes office on Friday. While Trump's nominee for Israel ambassador, David Friedman, is a staunch opponent of the two-state solution, the president-elect's Pentagon pick, Gen. James Mattis, called the achievement of Israeli-Palestinian peace "a vital interest" for the United States and added that in his eyes, the capital of Israel was Tel Aviv.
Haley, like Mattis, also seemed to take a tougher line on Russia than some of Trump's other appointments, and even the president-elect himself. At the hearing, she said Russia was conducting war crimes in Syria and that Putin's invasion of Crimea was "a big concern" for the United States. Trump, it should be noted, tweeted last week that he wanted his cabinet picks "to be themselves and express their own thoughts, not mine!"