October 9, 2018 – US President Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, surprised world capitals on Tuesday by resigning from her post.
She will leave at the end of the year, Trump told the press alongside her at a meeting in the Oval Office.
Haley focused her two-year tenure at the UN combating hostility toward the Jewish state and was praised by its leaders for her “strength” and “leadership” in the face of widespread anti-Israel bias there.
Reacting to the news, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked her for leading “an uncompromising struggle against hypocrisy at the UN and for the truth and justice of our country,” while President Reuven Rivlin praised her for “tearing away the cynical smokescreen that was masking the United Nations and international organizations” with a clarion voice.
After delivering a resignation letter to Trump, outlining her personal calculation for her departure, Haley traveled to Washington and told journalists at the White House that she sought to leave the job on a high note.
“I just think it’s very important for government officials to understand when it’s time to step aside,” Haley said, explaining her decision. “It has been an honor of a lifetime.”
Her resignation stunned top administration officials – including its chief of staff, John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton – as well as her staff in New York, who first learned of her decision on Tuesday morning.
In recent weeks, Haley acknowledged “disagreements” with the president on several policy matters and wrote a response to a New York Times op-ed on an internal “resistance” against Trump’s worst behaviors that irked the president.
In that article, Haley said she expresses her disapproval with Trump directly with him.
Also, this month, federal government watchdog launched an investigation into Haley’s flights to South Carolina, her home state, on private jets owned by donors to the last gubernatorial campaign. The inquiry has just begun and no wrongdoing has been proven, but the timing of that probe was raised by pundits in Washington as they questioned the timing of the ambassador’s announcement.
The White House did not provide further explanation of Haley’s departure beyond her own desire to leave after two years on the job. Haley, a mother of two college-aged children, reportedly noted to the president that she has been in public service for 14 years and wants “a break” to earn more money in the private sector.
“She told me probably six months ago, she said, you know, ‘At the end of the year, at the end of a two-year period, I want to take some time off, I want to take a break,’” Trump said. “We’ve solved a lot of problems, and we’re in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
Seen as a rising political star with ambitions beyond her ambassadorship, Haley was quick to dismiss rumors that her resignation before the November midterm elections indicated her designs on the 2020 presidential race.
“I can tell you what I’ll be doing is campaigning for this one,” she said. “I won’t be running in 2020.”
She repeated that commitment in her resignation letter to Trump, leaked on Tuesday to the Washington Post.
Just two weeks ago, at the UN General Assembly, Netanyahu met with Haley and praised her “amazing” tenure at the international body defending Israel.
She forged a close working relationship with Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, who issued a laudatory statement upon hearing the news.
“Thank you, Nikki Haley!” Danon wrote. “Thank you for standing with the truth without fear. Thank you for representing the values common to Israel and the United States. Thank you for your support for the State of Israel, which helped lead to a change in Israel’s status in the UN. Thank you for your close friendship and common paths.”
The former South Carolina governor was involved in crafting the administration’s upcoming plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace and advocating for aid cuts to Palestinian interests, including to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.
She successfully advocated aid cuts to nations and organizations at the UN that vote against US interests and campaigned aggressively against a General Assembly vote last year condemning the Trump administration for its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, vowing to “take names” of those who supported it.
“You look at the anti-Israel bias, and the strength and courage that the president showed in moving the embassy – and showing the world we will move our embassy where we want,” she said, listing her accomplishments.
And she offered particular praise for senior presidential advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump for their work “behind the scenes” on foreign policy matters, characterizing Kushner as a “hidden genius.”
“What I’ve done working with [Jared] on the Middle East peace plan – it is so unbelievably well done,” Haley said. Over the summer, she described the plan as highly detailed and innovative.
Haley had an outsized role on foreign policy during the first two years of the Trump administration, elevating her position to a cabinet-level role and enjoying free reign in New York throughout the tenure of Trump’s first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
Calling the ambassadorship “glamorous” thanks to Haley’s work, Trump gave her a rare, dignified send-off, declining to fire her by emissary or tweet as he has done with other senior aides.
Within the same hour that news broke of Haley’s departure, administration officials began suggesting that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser, would be on a shortlist to replace her. Another name that floated early was Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American who served early in the administration as deputy national security adviser.
The president said he would name Haley’s successor.