UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Jake Tapper tangled on CNN’s State of the Union today. Tapper started out his interview using the statement of the Arab League:
“Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a dangerous development that places the United States at a position of bias in favor of the occupation and the violation of international law and resolutions.”
Presumably, he did this because there have been minimal demonstrations in Jerusalem and he needed something to show that Trump is stupid and did a very bad thing.
Joining me now is the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
Madam Ambassador, always good to see you. Thank you.
The Arab League says this move has — quote — “isolated the U.S. from the peace process.” Your administration, of course, has made peace in the Middle East one of its top priorities. How does this move help that? How does it help the peace process in any way?
HALEY: Well, let’s, first of all, talk about what this does.
This basically says that the United States acknowledges that the capital of Israel is Jerusalem, and saying also that the embassy is going to be moved to the capital, just like it is in almost every other country.
In Israel, in Jerusalem, you have got the Parliament, you have got the president, you have got the prime minister, you have got the Supreme Court. So, why shouldn’t we have the embassy there?
Secondly, I will tell you that, for 22 years, you have had presidents and the American people ask for the embassy to be moved. And no president, not — not Clinton, not Bush, not Obama, actually made — had the courage to make that move and listen to the will of the American people.
The Senate just overwhelmingly again voted to have the embassy moved. So, the president did the will of the people.
When it comes to those that are upset, we knew that was going to happen. But courage does cause that. When you make a decision, you are going to have some that see it negatively and you’re going to have some that see it positively.
But I strongly believe this is going to move the ball forward for the peace process.
TAPPER: How is it going to move the ball forward for the peace process?
One of the things that has been pointed out — first of all, let me just say that I’m sure Presidents Bush, Clinton and Obama would dispute the idea that this was — that they didn’t do it because of courage.
But, putting that aside, President Trump is supposed to be a master negotiator. Isn’t this just cashing in a chit and getting nothing for it?
How does this move the peace process forward in any way?
Two points here. If you won’t say that three administrations refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel due to lack of courage of their convictions, you at least have to admit they refused to do so out of political expediency and that the political expediency they grasped at did more to prevent a permanent solution in Israel than to keep the door open for one. Tapper’s assertion that we “cashed in a chit” and got nothing for it is not provable at this point and ignores the fact that holding onto something and doing nothing with it is pretty much the same as losing it.
HALEY: Not at all.
And I will tell you, all the presidents wanted to do it, and everyone around them kept saying, don’t do it, don’t do it. This president said, for 22 years, that waiting didn’t help us. Now let’s try and move the ball.
What I will tell you is, you know, you have to look at the situation, that he just took Jerusalem off the table. He just took it off the table. So, now they get to come together. They get to decide what the borders will look like. They get to decide the boundaries. And they get to talk about how they want to see Jerusalem going forward.
All we did was say, this is not something that we’re going to allow to happen in the middle of your negotiations. You come together, and you decide what you want from the Israelis and the Palestinians for the peace process to look like. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.
And in terms of the Arab League, yes, they have said that, but we have a whole lot more in common with the Arab League than we have ever had before. And, mainly, that’s because of our fight against Iran.
And so, you know, while this is one issue they disagree with, there’s a whole lot of other issues that we are working very closely with them on.
TAPPER: I want you to take a listen to something that Dr. Saeb Erekat, the PLO secretary-general, said after President Trump’s decision.
SAEB EREKAT, SECRETARY-GENERAL, PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION: I think, tonight, he’s strengthening the forces of extremists in this region as no one has done before.
This is an act, a statement that is totally uncalled for, totally unacceptable, is a total violation of international law, human rights. And he’s turning the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis from a political one into a religious one.
That’s a very dangerous situation.
Seriously? We’re quoting a fat Palestinian terrorist as an authority on international law?
TAPPER: Do you have no concerns that this decision is going to weaken the moderate voices in the Arab world and strengthen the zealots?
HALEY: No, because — I have no concern, because what they mostly care about and what is their priority right now is Iran.
And we are in lockstep with them. And we have done a great job of talking about how we’re going to fight extremists.
You know, Jake, when the president made this comment on Wednesday, everybody said the sky was going to fall. So, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, the sky is still up there. It hasn’t fallen.
It is maybe human nature for some to say, this is terrible, this is terrible, but what if this actually moved the ball forward?
You keep… HALEY: And that’s what the American people…
TAPPER: But, Madam Secretary, you keep saying that, and I still don’t see how it moves the ball forward in terms of the peace process.
All you have done, all the president has done is remove something from the table that could have been used to either force the Israelis to concede something or force the Palestinians to concede something.
This is where Tapper, in my view, goes off the rails. The administration did remove something from the table. It took away one of the bargaining tools of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians have not been negotiating in good faith and this move shows them there are two paths forward. One in which they negotiate a final settlement and one in which a final settlement is imposed upon them.
HALEY: Because we have had conversations with both the Palestinians and the Israelis.
We have had great negotiations in that — in that respect, and we’re going continuing do that.
And for those who want to say this is a bad idea, I will tell you, ask us five and 10 years from now if you still think it’s a bad idea, because I really do that this is going to move the ball in the peace process.
And what this does just say what is real. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. What is wrong with saying it?
TAPPER: What about East Jerusalem?
HALEY: The American people have agreed with that.
TAPPER: But what about East Jerusalem? This is…
HALEY: We did not talk about boundaries or borders for a reason.
And that’s because whatever is East Jerusalem or any other part, that’s between the Palestinians and the Israelis. That’s not for the Americans to decide. The Americans just said, we want our embassy in the capital. And that capital in Jerusalem.
TAPPER: I still don’t see how it moves the peace process forward.
But I do want to get to North…
HALEY: That’s OK. It will move the peace process forward, and I will come back and tell you I told you so.
I don’t know that Haley will get her return booking or not, because, as someone once said, until Palestinians love their children more than they hate the Israelis there will be no peace. I do believe the removal of things from the negotiating process is the best way of convincing the Palestinians that they need to make a deal before there is nothing left to deal with.