South Carolina Governor Nikki R. Haley, chosen by President-elect Donald Trump to be the new U.S. Ambassad0or to the United Nations, is not only a known and established friend of Israel. She is also the pioneer in state legislation designed to prevent or inhibit any efforts to Boycott, Divest from or Sanction the Jewish State. This is, of course, a foreign policy issue. It does not have anything overtly to do with state government. But Governor Haley has nevertheless made it her issue, and signed the first state law designed to prevent such action…or at least to punish those who so act. What makes her action even more remarkable is that she has a background that would certainly not suggest her as a likely leader of any pro-Israel action.
Nimrata (Nikki) Haley was born in Bamberg, a small town of some 3,710 people (2010 census) in Southern South Carolina, not far from the Savannah River, which forms the border with Georgia. Her parents are Sikhs from Amritsar (‘oom-rit-sar), site of Sikhdom’s famous “Golden Temple”, in the Indian province of Punjab. America’s youngest current governor, Haley is its first ever Sikh governor, and its second Indian-American governor, after Bobby Jindal(R) of Louisiana. She holds a B.S. degree from her native state’s Clemson University.
Haley first began working in her mother’s ladies’ clothing shop, Exotica International, at the age of 12. After graduating from college, she first worked for a waste management company, but later came back to Exotica.
In 2004, Haley ran for State Representative from her native area, Lexington County. She was elected then, and re-elected in 2006 and 2008. Haley’s outlook was fiscally conservative, but with and emphasis on education: she was in favor of school choice and more charter schools. On abortion, she is pro-life, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
Haley ran for Governor of South Carolina in the 2010 election. After a tight Republican primary and runoff (in which she was initially polling last), she defeated her Democratic opponent, Vincent Sheheen, by a margin of 51% to 47%. She was re-elected in 2014.
Governor Haley supports lower taxes and takes pride in heading “one of the lowest union-participation states in the country”. She also led the fight to remove the Confederate flag from the grounds of the State Capitol in Columbia. She said, however, that she would not support an anti-LGBT bill, requiring transgender
Individuals to use rest rooms based on their sex at birth.
Governor Haley has described herself as a “strong supporter of Israel”. That support would not be of consequence for a state governor, however, had she not supported and signed a bill to ban “B.D.S.” (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) activities in her state. The B.D.S. campaign has been a growing and vocal one, particularly on college campuses in various parts of the United States.
The South Caroline anti-B.D.S. Bill (known during the Legislative Process as H11) does not, in fact, even mention Israel once. It merely prohibits a ‘public entity’ (i.e., “the State or any political subdivision of the State”) from doing business with a company engaged in any boycotting. It does not, of course, ban anyone from refusing to do business with someone for economic reasons (eg., their prices are too high). By this somewhat convoluted language, South Carolina became the first state in the union to impose penalties or sanctions on those businesses who boycott---whether they boycott individuals, companies or foreign countries. But the major intent was particularly to penalize those who boycott Israel.
Governor Haley also has been engaged in trade issues between South Carolina and India, her parents’ homeland, and has personally met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on one of his visits to New York. So she does have some experience in foreign policy and affairs, at least in the economic aspects thereof.
Reaction to Governor Haley’s appointment was uniformly favorable. Israel Ambassador Danny Danon welcomed the appointment, lauding her as “a longstanding and true friend of Israel, and…an outspoken fighter against the BDS movement in her state, and throughout the US”.
Some who have been critical of Trump’s cabinet choices were particularly encouraged by the appointment of Governor Haley, as a former critic of the President-elect. Haley had first supported Florida Senator Marco Rubio and later Texas Senator Ted Cruz, before finally endorsing Mr. Trump as the nominee. And Trump’s spokesman Jason Miller described a “natural chemistry between the two when they met, in how they wanted the United States represented on the international stage”.
In her seventh and final “State of the State” message, on 11 January to the State Legislature in Columbia, Governor Haley cited “the lessons I learned from this state and its people, starting when I was a young Indian girl in small, rural Bamberg, who spent her time playing tennis and dreaming big, that I will take with me”.
Future Ambassador Haley’s new position should prove a formidable challenge
for her, saddled on day one with all of the U.N.’s—and the world’s—most intractable problems. Chief among them, of course, is the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Syria. And she will have to prove the Administration’s loyalty to—and support for—Israel, after the abstention on Resolution 2334. The U.S. will hold the presidency of the Security Council for the month of April. It should prove an early forum for her talents and capabilities. Her performance will bear the closest watching.