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Why Nikki Haley walked out of a U.N. meeting

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Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, forcefully defended Israel in the violence at Gaza, potentially widening a rift between the U.S. and allies. 

The U.N.’s Middle East envoy said there was no justifying the killings of more than 50 Palestinians by Israeli fire at the Gaza border, and several Security Council members called for an independent investigation, but the council had no unified message Tuesday as the U.S. said Israel had acted with “restraint.”

Nikki Haley.jpg

Image: Nikki Haley

Haley placed all blame for the conflict with Hamas, after more than 50 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire at the Gaza border, following the U.S. Embassy move to Jerusalem that was celebrated Monday.

She said Hamas extremists who rule Gaza were responsible for Monday’s violence, also insisting that it had nothing to do with the launch of U.S. embassy, a move that infuriated Palestinians.

“I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council, who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would.” Haley said.

“No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has. In fact, the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained.”

In a later briefing, Haley maintained that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was the right thing to do.

“It reflects the will of the American people. It reflects our sovereign right to decide the location of our embassy — a right that everyone in this room claims for their own country,” she continued.

“Importantly, moving our embassy to Jerusalem also reflects the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. It has served as Israel’s capital since the founding of the state. It is the ancient capital of the Jewish people. There is no plausible peace agreement under which Jerusalem would no longer remain the capital of Israel. Recognizing this reality makes peace more achievable, not less.”

Haley walked out of the meeting when the Palestinian envoy began speaking, a symbolic gesture.

While some members said the U.N.’s most powerful body needed to speak as one to try to calm the volatile situation — and the Palestinian envoy implored, “When are you going to act?”

A proposed statement had stalled Monday after the U.S. blocked it.

Still, Kuwait’s envoy said he planned to propose a council resolution on protecting Palestinian civilians.

Israel has said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of trying to attack under the cover of the protest.

But Nikolai Mladenov, the U.N.’s Middle East envoy, said there was “no justification for the killing” and “no excuse.”

He called on Israel to use force proportionally and avoid using deadly force except as a last resort, a message echoed by the council’s European members. In a joint statement after the meeting, they said that Hamas needed to avoid “provocations” and violence, but that Israel’s military must “exercise maximum restraint” in using lethal force.

Some of them and others, including China, called for an independent probe into the events at the Gaza border.

“The death toll alone warrants such a comprehensive inquiry,” British Ambassador Karen Pierce said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also proposed an investigation, after a deadly protest in Gaza in March.

Many council members also re-emphasized their distance from the U.S. decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital. It was a break with the U.N.’s decade-long stance that Jerusalem’s final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who seek eastern Jerusalem as a future capital of their own.

The U.S. says it has the right to decide where to put its embassy, and Haley said Tuesday the decision simply recognized “reality.”

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