Nikki Haley, a fervent supporter of Israel, said supporting the Jewish state was “one of the easiest things I did in the UN.”
Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and rumored GOP presidential candidate, addressed a sold-out crowd of Greater Miami Jewish Federation supporters Tuesday at the Hilton Miami Downtown.
“It was about doing what was right; it was about telling the truth,” she said.
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Haley, 47, received the 2019 Friend of Israel Humanitarian Award at the federation’s Main Event. The Main Event is one of the biggest fundraisers for the federation, which supports Jewish organizations and schools. Almost all of the people who attended contribute more than $1,000 a year to the federation.
The federation began giving the award in 2002 as a way to “recognize remarkable individuals whose leadership inspires us,” Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the federation, told the more than 1,300 people in attendance. Past winners have included former Florida Gov. Bob Graham and former Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Solomon said the federation gave Haley the award to thank her for supporting Israel during her U.N. tenure.
“I think the community, regardless of their political leanings, recognizes what an extraordinary force on behalf of Israel she has been at the United Nations,” Solomon said. “She had a fiercely independent voice at the United Nations and she really stood for a truthful and honest treatment of Israel.”
Haley said of the award: “It is an honor and pleasure to accept this award. I can promise you I’m too young to stop fighting.”
She added jokingly, “That did not mean I am running for president.”
Haley, who announced in October she would resign from her U.N. post at the end of 2018, has long been viewed as a GOP presidential candidate. When she announced her resignation, she said she did not plan to run in 2020 and would campaign to re-elect President Donald Trump, who nominated her to the Cabinet-level post. Haley was one of the few high-profile women in the Trump administration.
During her two years at the United Nations, Haley fought against what she called “anti-Israel bias” and defended the U.S. decision by the Trump administration to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, a controversial move.
Prior to the U.N., Haley had been the Republican governor of South Carolina. During her speech and during a conversation with Michael Putney, senior political reporter for WPLG, Haley said her Indian heritage — her parents immigrated to the United States from India — and growing up in a small Southern town made her who she is.
When she was sworn in as governor in 2011, she became the first woman and the first person of an ethnic minority to hold the position of governor in South Carolina’s history.
“I have an obligation to make sure no one ever feels like that,” she said of the struggles of being “different.” She received several standing ovations after saying that Israel was not treated fairly by the United Nations and she felt it was up to her to stand up for the country.
“Fighting for Israel was not just a job for me; it was the right thing to do,” she said.
Since her resignation, Haley has reportedly been charging $200,000 per domestic speaking engagement, according to a report by CNBC. The federation did not disclose how much it paid Haley.
One of the questions that received the most applause was when Putney asked Haley about women running for the presidency. There are four U.S. Democratic women senators — Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — who’ve announced they are running for president in 2020. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, also has announced her candidacy.
“Is it time for a woman to be president of the United States?” he asked.
Her answer: “I am so not taking the bait on that one. I will tell you when the American people show their voice. It doesn’t matter if it’s a man or woman or black, white or other... what matters is you have someone who connects with the American people.”