UN Rejects Haley's Bid to Condemn Hamas Before Her Tenure Ends

(Bloomberg) -- The United Nations rejected a resolution condemning Hamas, an attempt by departing U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s to single out the Islamist group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

In one of her final acts before her scheduled departure at year-end, Haley won majority support for the resolution in the General Assembly on Thursday, with 87 nations voting in favor, 57 against, and 33 abstaining. But the resolution needed a two-thirds majority to pass.

“We haven’t achieved the two-thirds majority, but this is the first time that there is a majority of countries that voted against Hamas, and I commend all 87 states that have taken a stand in principle against Hamas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a tweet after the vote.

Haley’s move highlights her successes and failures in taking on what she has called the UN’s “anti-Israel” bias. While the resolution was nonbinding, the U.S. saw the vote as a chance for a symbolic win after almost two years in which Haley -- who’s widely believed to have presidential aspirations -- has burnished her credentials as a fierce supporter of Israel.

“Each year, the General Assembly adopts more than a dozen resolutions on these issues,” Haley said in a letter sent to UN diplomats and obtained by Bloomberg News before the vote. “Not one of these resolutions ever mentions Hamas or other militant groups in Gaza. Through its firing of rockets and other weapons, Hamas and other groups are endangering the lives of innocent civilians.”

Surprise Resignation

The vote was one of the final U.S. initiatives at the UN led by Haley, who surprised White House officials in October by announcing plans to resign by the end of the year. No nominee to replace her has been named. The former South Carolina governor has been one of the few top aides to Donald Trump to maintain a strong relationship with the president -- so much so that he hosted her in the Oval Office for a public farewell.

One reason for that support has been her stalwart backing of Israel at the UN.

Haley took office early last year with the Trump administration furious at moves made in December 2016 by the Obama administration. In a shift in policy, the U.S. abstained from a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s settlements policy, a move criticized by U.S. lawmakers from both parties. Since then, Haley has led U.S. efforts to undue what she says is the damage done by that move and other policies described as undermining a critical Mideast ally.

Israel has long had a contentious position at the UN, diplomatically shunned by many countries. Netanyahu has made efforts to broaden the country’s support at the world organization, and its ambassador, Danny Danon, served as the General Assembly’s vice president. In recent years Israel has found common cause with several Middle East countries who view Iran’s activity in the region as threatening as policy makers in Jerusalem do.

Ahead of the UN vote, the U.S. made several tweaks to the draft resolution in order to sway European countries. Those included a nod to the peace process and to internal Palestinian reconciliation attempts. A European diplomat said that while European Union members wouldn’t have necessarily written such a resolution, most of them don’t disagree with the idea of condemning Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the EU.

Israeli tensions with Gaza have been high this year as the economic situation in the territory deteriorates and Hamas and Fatah fail to reach a reconciliation deal. But like the U.S., Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank viewed Thursday’s resolution as significant.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.