By Ilana Siyance
On Saturday, Nikki Haley, former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, under former President Donald Trump, criticized AIPAC for hosting politicians who support the Iran nuclear deal. In her speech, at the annual leadership conference for the Republican Jewish Coalition being held in Las Vegas, Haley tore at the pro-Israel lobbying group for their efforts at bipartisanship. “There’s one thing I don’t get about AIPAC, and I’m not saying anything to you that I haven’t said to their leadership,” she said in her speech. “Why do they invite politicians to their conference who strongly support the Iran nuclear deal?” she questioned, yielding applause from the conservative crowd. “Stop rewarding bad behavior. It only gets you more bad behavior.”
As reported by the Times of Israel, it was rare criticism for the powerful group which works to bolster the US-Israel relationship, by cultivating ties with lawmakers in both parties. The reproof towards AIPAC got a warm reception even from Republicans, which may indicate an increasing decline in support for AIPAC. Haley, 49, had served for two years as envoy to the U.N. from 2017, and was previously governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017.
“Bipartisanship is important. But if you make bipartisanship your whole reason for existence, then you lose sight of the policies you’re fighting for in the first place,” Haley told RJC. “If a politician supports the disastrous Iran deal, opposes moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, and is embraced by antisemites who support the BDS movement, then a pro-Israel group should have absolutely nothing to do with him or her,” she added.
From AIPAC’s point of view, a decision to stop hosting politicians who support the nuclear deal may leave very few Democrats to invite to the conference. An AIPAC spokesman declined to comment on Haley’s remarks.
Haley also targeted J Street lobby, saying its chairman Jeremy Ben Ami gave Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas a “great big hug” when he spoke at the UN. “Supposedly they claim to be a pro-Israel organization? I will never understand that,” she said about the group. J Street spokesman snapped back, telling Times of Israel, “Trump apologists like her simply can’t accept the fact that the overwhelming majority of American Jews support diplomacy and pro-Israel, pro-peace policies that aim to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not exacerbate it.”
In her speech, Haley touted her own pro-Israel record, and also gave advice for Israel’s new government. She reiterated the statement on Twitter, saying: “Israel should not count on Biden to stop the Iran nuclear program. The Iranian nuclear threat is existential for Israel. If Israel makes the grave decision that its security depends on removing that threat, it should not wait for an American green light that might never come.”