Analysis

Trump’s ‘Sanity Translator’ Nikki Haley Will Be Missed Most Sorely by Netanyahu and Right-wing American Jews

Trump can’t be such a jerk, Jews told themselves, if he appointed a UN ambassador who is Golda Meir, Deborah the Prophetess and Esther the Queen all rolled into one

File photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in New York.
Avi Hayun/GPO

One of greatest hits of the Key & Peele comedy duo was their series of skits in which Jordan Peele played Barack Obama and Keegan-Michael Peele his “anger translator,” whose job was to transform the former President’s often frustrating reserve into the wrathful firebrand his fans often wanted to see. Nikki Haley played the opposite role for Donald Trump: She was his sanity translator. Haley converted Trump’s general meshugas into the tough but carefully controlled and well-articulated foreign policies that right-wing conservatives wanted to hear.

Trump and Haley tried on Tuesday to put the best possible face on the United Nation (UN) Ambassador’s resignation, exuding smiles and trading compliments. They wanted to preempt further revelations of the disagreements that have already tainted their relationship, including their last brush-up over Trump’s appearance at the head of the Security Council, which may have led to Haley’s departure. They left open the possibility that Haley would continue to be part of Trump’s inner team, would campaign for Trump in 2020 and, potentially, might secure an important cabinet seat in this or the next administration, if he’s reelected.

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Nonetheless, the resignation of such a relatively popular figure, which stood out among Trump’s generally unloved subordinates, coming less than 30 days before the November 6 elections, is a blow to Trump’s image, and, by extension, to the GOP’s prospects. The fact that Haley is a woman and that her departure dovetails with the female-infuriating Brett Kavanaugh affair can only take Trump’s standing among U.S. women from bad to worse. It’s hard to imagine that Trump would have allowed to her to leave at such a critical juncture if things between them were all hunky-dory, as he and Haley attempted to project.

But whether Haley’s departure has an impact on the pivotal vote for Congress or will eventually be seen as inconsequential, the damage to Trump’s foreign policy image is done. Unless he appoints a successor who can instantly capture Haley’s popularity and stature, Trump will have lost his most effective front-woman, the mouthpiece that made his policies a bit more palatable to the rest of the world. Her absence will leave a void, which, to much of the world’s horror, is likely to filled by National Security Adviser John Bolton, with whom Haley also bickered.

But nowhere will Haley’s absence be felt more acutely than in Israel and among American Jewish supporters of Trump’s policies in the Middle East. For the government of Israel and for many Israelis, Haley was the simply the best ambassador ever, American or Israeli, to that den of liars and anti-Semites aka the United Nations.  She embraced Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies as if they were her own and gave them the platform and gravitas that her Israeli counterpart, Danny Danon, could only dream of. She was Netanyahu’s best answer to accusations that he is gambling on Israel’s future by pitching its with an unstable and deeply unpopular President.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Nikki Haley in the Oval Office after announcing that the president had accepted Haley's resignation in Washington, D.C., October 9, 2018.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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Haley’s presence was even more critical for American Jews who held their nose at Trump’s personality and behavior but voted for him nonetheless, because of their enthusiasm for his Israel positions and aversion to his predecessor’s. Haley became the face of the Trump administration’s foreign policy, as if it were an independent entity, disconnected from Trump’s fallout with U.S. allies, suspicious ties to Russia, Kim Jong Un craziness, disdain for minorities, refugees, immigrants and women and overall obnoxious behavior. He can’t be such a jerk, many Jews told themselves, if he appointed an ambassador to the UN who is Golda Meir, Deborah the Prophetess and Esther the Queen all rolled into one.

Haley, self-made woman, daughter of immigrants, remover of Confederate statues and a moderate among white supremacists during her time as Governor of South Carolina was, for many Jews, a substitute president. They supported her wholeheartedly and elevated her to demigod status. She personified the Trump administration of their dreams and helped them cope with the president who governs America in reality. Now that she’s gone, the scary truth is staring at Haley’s worshippers right in the face.