UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vice President Mike Pence Hail Strength of US-Israel Ties Before Adoring Crowd at AIPAC Conference
US Vice President Mike Pence and US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley electrified the audience at Monday night’s plenary of the 2018 AIPAC Policy Conference, with Pence promising to wild cheers that as far as the US-Israel relationship is concerned, “the best days are yet to come.”
Haley took the stage first, met by a standing ovation and the flash of cellphones from a crowd that hung on her every word. “You guys are amazing!” the Ambassador remarked.
Highlighting the two lone votes of the US and Israel in a 2017 UN vote on the Raul Castro regime in Cuba, Haley joked, “I always say quality is more than quantity.”
Haley said the key lesson she had learned at the UN over the last year “is not to be afraid of sticking to fundamental principles, even when they go against entrenched customs.”
“Standing up for your friends is critical,” Haley said, as she excoriated the December 2016 passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2234, which strongly criticized Israel’s policies in Jerusalem and the West Bank, as “a shameful day for America.”
“We refused to stand up for our friend when it was singled out for terrible treatment,” Haley said. “On my watch, that will never happen again.
Occasionally heckled by audience members shouting “We love you!” Haley clearly warmed to her audience, telling the AIPAC crowd that standing up for Israel at the UN reminded her of her experiences as the child of Indian immigrant parents who was bullied at school. “Just like when I was that little girl in South Carolina, that doesn’t sit well with me,” she said to applause.
Haley’s remarks on Jerusalem were arguably the most enthusiastically-received of her speech, “America did not make Jerusalem Israel’s capital,” she said. “President Trump recognized a reality that American Presidents denied for too long.”
Haley explained that her approach at the UN “is tied by one major idea: that Israel must be treated like any other normal country.”
“It cannot be the case that only one country in the world doesn’t get to choose its capital city, that the UN Human Rights Council has a standing agenda item for only one country, that only one set of refugees is counted in a way that causes their numbers to grow forever,” Haley continued, referring to the year-on-year increase in the number of Palestinians registered as refugees by the UNRWA agency.
Haley profusely thanked Guatemala and Honduras for supporting the US stance on Jerusalem, going on to praise the 65 nations who “refused to go against us” at a UN General Assembly debate on the issue on Dec. 21, 2017.
“We’re not forgetting that vote,” Haley said. “On that vote, we were taking names.”
A warmly-received Pence, meanwhile, spoke with undisguised reverence for Israel, recalling that it was “my great honor to be the first Vice President to address the Knesset in Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel.”
Pledging that the US would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran “unless it is fixed in the coming months,” Pence declared that the US “will never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
“Israel is a living testament to the power of freedom and the power of faith,” Pence reflected.
“To this day, we grieve the loss of the six million martyrs of the Holocaust,” he said. “Just three years after walking through the valley of the shadow of death, they rose to rebuild a Jewish future and Jewish state,” Pence continued to rapturous applause, before ending his speech with the Jewish prayer “Shehecheyanu,” traditionally recited on happy occasions.
Other speakers at the Monday night plenary included Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), who stated that the impending passage of the Taylor Force Act – which ties US assistance to the Palestinian Authority to a verifiable end to its so-called “martyr payments policy” – “will force the world to confront the dark truth that the Palestinian Authority every day actively aids and abets terrorism.”
In earlier addresses to the plenary, House Congressional leaders Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD) expressed strong bipartisan optimism about the future of US-Israel relations, stressing the importance of US-Israeli cooperation in the private sector, as well as in national security and defense. Both emphasized the need to confront Iran’s regional ambitions – a point echoed by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), who told the crowd that part of the reason she voted against the 2015 nuclear deal lay in her concern for Israel’s security in the face of Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies.