GOP presidential candidate Nikki Haley is steadily gaining traction in the Republican primary race, leveraging her foreign policy expertise to try to establish herself as a serious challenge to former President Donald Trump’s campaign.
And the conflicts in Israel, while horrific, are giving her the prime opportunity to do just that.
After her South Carolina gubernatorial term, Haley was appointed by President Donald Trump as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in 2017. She represented the United States at the UN, often taking a strong stance on issues related to national security and human rights.
Haley frequently uses her foreign policy experience to set her campaign apart from her rivals by recounting her time as United Nations Ambassador and highlighting threats to America from rivals like Russia and China. But the recent conflict between Palestine and Israel has given her a timely chance to drive her point home and gain significant momentum in the GOP race.
Haley has a history of challenging her rivals on topics such as U.S. support for Ukraine against Russia and dealing with China. She previously criticized Trump for being too friendly with China and expressed concern that weak support for Ukraine might encourage China to invade Taiwan, a viewpoint shared by some of her GOP competitors.
In debates, she has confronted her opponents on foreign policy issues, particularly Vivek Ramaswamy, whom she criticized for lacking foreign policy experience. There have been many personal exchanges between the two, with Ramaswamy labeling Haley a war profiteer. In turn, Haley refuted Ramaswamy’s argument that the U.S. has no place in defense of Ukraine by telling him, “You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows.”
Haley compared the Israel-Hamas conflict to her own conservative domestic priorities, arguing that both America and Israel could be made vulnerable by what she calls “distractions.”
Haley observed that a divided and distracted America sends a signal of weakness to its enemies, drawing parallels with Israel’s situation. She noted various “distractions” within the U.S., including political instability, the growing national debt, and concerns about illegal border crossings and drug seizures. She shares her fellow Republican candidates’ fears that extremists could exploit the southern border in an Israeli-style attack from America’s adversaries.
The Republican field largely supports Israel and criticizes President Joe Biden’s handling of relations with Iran, especially the deal involving a substantial fund transfer to Tehran. While there is no conclusive evidence of direct Iranian involvement in recent attacks, its support for Hamas is an ongoing concern.
During her two-year tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley was known for her strong advocacy of Israel. One of the defining themes of her time in this role was her unwavering support for the Israeli government. In 2018, when Israel faced international criticism for its use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, Haley came to Israel’s defense. She staunchly defended Israel’s actions and made a firm statement by walking out of a United Nations Security Council session when the Palestinian envoy began to speak.
Her pro-Israel stance resonates with Republican voters. In an August poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 44% of Republicans were likely to describe Israel as an ally with shared values. In contrast, only 25% of Democrats held the same view.
Haley is gaining momentum in the race, with supporters seeing her as a leader who understands world dynamics at a time when political instability and unrest rocks the global landscape. She is also seeing increased traction in early caucus states like Iowa, where her strong advocacy for Israel resonates with influential evangelical voters.
Leveraging her foreign policy expertise, Nikki Haley is emerging as a formidable presence in the GOP primary race, with the Israel-Hamas conflict offering a relevant stage to showcase her popular positions. Her adeptness in foreign policy debates and unwavering support for Israel have solidified her standing in the polls.
Even former President Trump has taken notice of Haley, dubbing her “Birdbrain” in a Trump-style nickname. Haley took to social media to share an image of a birdcage that she claimed was left at her hotel room door by Trump’s associates, accompanying the post with the hashtag “PrettyPatheticTryAgain.”
Trump’s “Birdbrain” nickname for Haley, along with his prank of leaving a cage at her door, makes it clear that her rising popularity is ruffling his feathers.