UNITED NATIONS — The new U.S. ambassador to the UN said Friday she was dismayed to learn the UN’s top diplomat had tapped a former prime minister for the Palestinian Authority to serve as head of the mission in Libya.
Nikki Haley, whose tenure began on Jan. 27 and who lobbied for the job stressing America’s alliance with Israel, viewed Antonio Guterres’ appointment this week of Salam Fayyad as his special representative to Libya, as a continuation of the UN’s animus toward a U.S. ally.
“For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favor of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel,” Haley wrote in response to news of Fayyad’s appointment. “The United States does not currently recognize a Palestinian state or support the signal this appointment would send within the United Nations however, we encourage the two sides to come together directly on a solution. Going forward the United States will act, not just talk, in support of our allies.”
Her comments all but ended speculation brewing in the UN’s Manhattan offices over the selection this week but Guterres’ spokesman, Farhan Haq, declined to confirm the appointment at a news briefing Friday.
Fayyad had served as prime minister under Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from 2007 to 2013 and had also served previously as finance minister. He resigned in April 2013 amid differences with Abbas due to political infighting, but was widely seen, even among U.S. officials in the Obama administration, as a respected economist who had brought keen financial stewardship to the group.
The high-profile post of a Palestinian at the helm of the 205-person mission created by the Security Council in 2011 dovetails with other moves by Palestinian officials to serve on key panels within the UN system, such as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and other international bodies like the League of Arab States, the Movement of Nonaligned Countries and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in a long-term bid to end Israeli occupation, enjoy global recognition and achieve full statehood.
Haley, though, said in her reaction that “The United States was disappointed to see a letter indicating the intention to appoint the former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister to lead the UN Mission in Libya,” suggesting the Trump administration does not approve of the selection.
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, welcomed Haley’s stance.
“The new administration is working towards the joint interest of the United States, Israel and the special alliance between our two nations,” he said. ”This is the beginning of a new era at the UN, an era where the U.S. stands firmly behind Israel against any and all attempts to harm the Jewish State.”
Haley is on record slamming the UN Security Council resolution in December that condemned Israel settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States, in the last days of Obama administration, voted to abstain from the vote, while the other 14 Security Council members, including permanent veto-wielding U.S. allies of France and Great Britain, supported the resolution against settlements as a violation of international law.
Israeli’s Parliament on Monday enacted a “Regularisation Bill” that retroactively legalizes thousands of housing units on land owned by Palestinians in the West Bank. UN chief Guterres said the law contradicted international law and even Israel’s attorney general called the litigation unconstitutional.
“This bill is in contravention of international law and will have far reaching legal consequences for Israel,” read Guterres’ statement. “It reportedly provides immunity to settlements and outposts in the occupied West Bank that were built on privately-owned Palestinian land. The Secretary-General insists on the need to avoid any actions that would derail the two-state solution.”