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Nikki Haley

(1972 - )

Nikki Haley

Republican South Carolina Governor Nimrata Nikki Randhawa Haley, better known as Nikki Haley, was born on January 20, 1972, in Bamberg, South Carolina, to Sikh immigrants from Punjab, India. She attended local schools and graduated from Clemson University with a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Haley went on to work for her mother’s upscale clothing business, Exotica International, helping to make it a multimillion-dollar company.

In 1998, Haley was named to the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors and, in 2003, to that of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. She became president of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) in 2004. She got involved in several other organizations, including the Lexington Medical Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, and the South Carolina Chapter of NAWBO.

Haley converted to Christianity and sat on the Mt. Horeb United Methodist Church board. Out of respect for her parents’ culture, she still attends Sikh services.

Political Career

Haley ran for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2004. She faced a challenge in the primary from incumbent Republican Larry Koon, the longest-serving member of the House at that time. She won the primary and then the general election, in which she ran unopposed and became the first Indian-American to hold office in South Carolina. She ran unopposed for re-election in 2006 and defeated her Democrat challenger in 2008.

As a Republican, Haley’s platform was anti-tax and fiscally conservative. She voted for bills that restrict abortion and those that protect fetuses. As the child of legal immigrants, Haley has supported greater enforcement of immigration laws.

Haley, a member of the Tea Party movement, announced in May 2009 that she would run for governor of South Carolina in 2010. She was elected on November 2, 2010.

The Republican Party selected Haley to deliver the GOP response following President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, significantly raising her national profile.

Following her response, press outlets reported that Haley was on the GOP shortlist as a possible vice presidential running mate for the party’s nominee, Donald Trump, who ultimately chose Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. During the presidential campaign, Haley initially campaigned for Marco Rubio and later endorsed Ted Cruz. Haley criticized Trump for not immediately disavowing the Ku Klux Klan’s support of him and for his proposed Muslim ban. Trump responded to Haley’s criticism with his critiques of her, including calling her “weak on immigration” and tweeting in March 2016: “The people of South Carolina are embarrassed by Nikki Haley!”

By the end of the contentious campaign, Haley backed Trump and celebrated his victory. “I have never known what it’s like to have a Republican president,” she said at a gathering of Republican leaders after the election. “I can tell you that the last five years, Washington has been the hardest part of my job. This is a new day.”

On November 22, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump picked Haley to become the United States ambassador to the United Nations. She was the first woman to be named to his administration. “Governor Haley has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country,” Trump said in a statement. “She will be a great leader representing us on the world stage.”

In accepting the offer, Haley said she was “honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love.” She added, “When the President believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed.”

On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed as UN Ambassador by the Senate, 94-6, and she resigned as governor of South Carolina to serve in her new role.

Over her first few months as the U.N. Ambassador, Haley found her time consumed by keeping the international community attuned to threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran. In December 2017, she forcefully defended President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, referring to it as the “will of the American people” and something that would “fastball the peace process going forward.” Haley has also vociferously condemned anti-Israel bias at the United Nations.

Haley also made human rights a priority. During her tenure as the Security Council President in April 2017, Haley hosted the council’s first-ever session solely devoted to discussing of human rights.

Haley left her position as U.N. ambassador on December 31, 2018.

In 2019, Haley created a new policy group called Stand for America, which promotes public policies to strengthen the economy, culture, and national security issues. The same year, she was elected to the board of directors of Boeing.

In early 2021, Haley created a PAC to endorse and support candidates in the 2022 midterm elections.

On February 14, 2023, she announced plans to run for president in 2024. After dismal showings in the initial Republican primaries, she dropped out of the race. Thousands continued to vote for her in later primaries, suggesting many voters in swing states might not support Donald Trump. After having insisted he was unfit for the presidency, Haley announced in May her intention to vote for Trump.

In September 1996, Nikki Randhawa married Michael Haley. The couple have two children.

She has written four books:

  • Can’t Is Not an Option: My American Story, (New York: Sentinel, 2012).
  • With All Due Respect: Defending America with Grit and Grace, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019).
  • A Better Blueprint for International Organizations: Advancing American Interests on the Global Stage, (DC: Foundation for Defense of Democracies, 2021)
  • If You Want Something Done: Leadership Lessons from Bold Women, (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2022).

Haley has also won numerous awards, including several for her support of Israel:

  • Defender of Israel, Christians United for Israel, (July 23, 2018).
  • Excellence in Diplomacy Award, B’nai B’rith International, (2018).
  • Friend of Israel Humanitarian Award, Miami Jewish Federation, (2019).
  • Humanitarian Laureate Award, The Simon Wiesenthal Center, (May 24, 2019).
  • Theodor Herzl Award, World Jewish Congress, (November 6, 2019).

Policy Positions


  • “We don’t need to celebrate terrorists. We don’t need to celebrate genocide. We don’t need to celebrate violence towards anybody. We need to go back and soul-search in our country and remember what we are about and we are about taking care of people not going and making them live in fear.” (JTA, November 9, 2023)

  • “We do need to make sure on these college campuses that we hold these universities accountable. If they’re not going to acknowledge the hate that’s on their campuses, I think their tax-exempt status needs to be revoked.”

    “Joe Biden still refuses to say anti-Zionism is antisemitism. It’s time to tell the truth. Denying Israel’s right to exist and calling for Israel’s annihilation is just another form of antisemitism. You can’t fight antisemitism if you can’t define it.” (Jewish Insider, October 27, 2023)

  • “You can’t fight antisemitism if you can’t define it. Joe Biden and the Left refuse to call anti-Zionism anti-Semitism,”

    “As president, I will change the official federal definition of anti-Semitism to include denying Israel’s right to exist, and I will pull schools’ tax exemption status if they do not combat antisemitism in all of its forms – in accordance with federal law.”

    “The Oct. 7 massacre and the ensuing weeks have proven what many of us have long known: There is no difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. In order to combat antisemitism, we have to define it, and that starts at the top.”

    “College campuses are allowed to have free speech, but they are not free to spread hate that supports terrorism. Federal law requires schools to combat anti-Semitism.”

    “We will give this law teeth and we will enforce it. The United States of America will not use taxpayer dollars to fund antisemitism. Period.” (New York Post, October 25, 2023).

  • “When I was governor of South Carolina, we were the first state in the nation to pass a law taking on the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanciton (BDS) movement. We stopped using taxpayer funds to do business with any company that discriminates on the basis of race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. I was proud of South Carolinians for acting in defense of our values.” (Jerusalem Report, September 18, 2023)

U.S. - Israel Relationship

  • “The Palestinians are the ones rejecting a two-state solution because they want a one-state solution. They don’t want Israel to exist.” (@NikkiHaley, January 18, 2024)

  • “We need to understand: the reason we need to support Israel is Israel is a bright spot in a tough neighborhood. They are the tip of the spear when it comes to defeating terrorism. It has never been that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel. When I was at the United Nations, I fought every day for Israel.” (JTA, January 11, 2024).

  • “Israel is a bright spot in a tough neighborhood. It has never that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel.” (@NikkiHaley, January 4, 2024)

  • “A Haley administration will always have Israel's back.” (@NikkiHaley, November 14, 2023)

  • Regarding talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu about the Gaza War: “The first thing I said to him when it happened was, I said ‘Finish them. Finish them.’” (JTA, November 9, 2023)
  • Referring to comments made by Donald Trump. “As president, I will not compliment Hezbollah. Nor will I criticize Israel’s prime minister in the middle of tragedy and war. We have no time for personal vendettas.” (New York Times, October 28, 2023)
  • “There are important differences between the candidates. I will always unapologetically stand with Israel.” (@NikkiHaley, October 26, 2023)
  • “When I arrived at the United Nations, I saw how abusively Israel was being treated, and for the first time, the U.S. had basically abstained from a resolution that just vilified Israel. The U.S. had never done that before. The idea that they abstained, I knew we had a lot of work to do when I got there. We had this protocol that you always meet with certain ambassadors in a certain quarter, and Israel wasn’t on that list. I broke protocol, and Israel was one of the first countries that I met with. I did that for a couple of reasons. One is that if we don’t have the backs of our friends, what does that say about America? We have to do that. So after that happened, I went to Danny Danon [Israeli ambassador to the UN) and said, ‘I don’t know why they did that. But as long as I’m here, you will never have to worry about me not having our back.’ And I was true to my word from the first day that I got there until the last day.”

    “Why did it take months for President Biden to invite the Israeli prime minister to come to the U.S.? That’s unthinkable. Why is the current president going about complaining about what’s happening with Israeli domestic policy that’s not our business any more than it’s their business to get involved with American domestic policy. You see this happening, and the same time, he is going about appeasing Iran. Everything about that sets a bad tone.”

    “I can promise you that my very first call as president will be to the prime minister of Israel, and we will set the tone and proceed with all of the good that happened with the Abraham Accords and everything we did to develop that partnership. We will start to build on that again and we have some work to do when this current administration is done.” (Jerusalem Report, September 18, 2023)
  • After Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) called Israel an “apartheid” state, Haley said, “Why does Israel get under your skin? Because it’s democratic, pro-American, or Jewish? You don’t get worked up about massive human rights violations in China, Iran, Cuba, & Venezuela.” 

    “You all would fit in great with the anti-Semites at the United Nations.” (@NikkiHaley, July 20, 2023)

  • “Nikki has long been a strong defender of Israel. As governor, she signed the first anti-BDS legislation in the country. As UN ambassador, she declared “a new day for Israel at the United Nations” and vowed that “the days of Israel bashing are over.” Nikki urged President Trump to move America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem even when other members of the administration opposed the move. And when President Trump made the official announcement, she proudly issued the first American veto in six years at the UN Security Council, defending the United States’ sovereign right to put our embassy wherever we choose. Nikki changed the conversation at the UN Security Council’s monthly session on the Middle East from constantly bashing Israel to highlighting real human rights crises in tyrannical countries in the Middle East. Despite opposition from the D.C. establishment, Nikki pushed for America’s withdrawal from the anti-Israel UNESCO and withdrawal of funding from the corrupt UNRWA. She was also a driving force behind the United States’ withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council—an entity she called “a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.” (Nikki Haley for President).

Foreign Aid

  • “He [Ramaswamy] to hand Ukraine to Russiahe wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel. You don’t do that to your friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends.”

    “It’s not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel.” (First Republican Debate, Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023)

  • Responding to his comments on Israel and foreign aid, Haley said: “Vivek Ramaswamy is completely wrong to call for ending America’s special bond with Israel. Support for Israel is both the morally right and strategically smart thing to do. Both countries are stronger and safer because of our iron-clad friendship. As president, I will never abandon Israel.” (Jewish Insider, August 21, 2023)


  • [Israel has been] “the front line of defense against Iran.” (First Republican Debate, Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023)
  • “Known as the ‘Iran whisperer,’ Nikki played a prominent role in President Trump’s decision to repeal President Obama’s disastrous Iran deal. While others in the administration wanted to keep the Iran deal in place, Nikki made a compelling case for leaving it. She argued that the United States could not ignore all of the regime’s bad behavior, including its continued development of ballistic missiles, its terrorist activities throughout the Middle East, and its refusal to give access to international inspectors. She argued that the Iran nuclear deal made America less safe and praised President Trump’s decertification of it in October 2017.” (Nikki Haley for President).


  • “We must commit ourselves to ensure that good defeats evil. Eliminate Hamas once and for all. Finish them. (@NikkiHaley, November 5, 2023)
  • “No pause. No ceasefire. Let Israel eliminate Hamas.” (@NikkiHaley, November 2, 2023)
  • “Hamas has always been clear about its goals: To eradicate Israel. There is only one solution for such an enemy: Finish them.” (@NikkiHaley, October 22, 2023)
  • “We must do much more to show Hamas that we will never tolerate terrorism. We must show that when Hamas uses homes and schools to hide its terrorist infrastructure, there will be consequences. Those who give Hamas the arms, money, and political support to operate must cease. And if they do not, Member States of this United Nations need to come together to put real pressure on supporters of Hamas to stop. Together, we can show Hamas that their terrorist tactics will only lead to more isolation. Together, we can show Hamas that their terrorist tactics will fail. So we should act now, before Hamas puts the people of Gaza at risk again by building more tunnels under their feet.” (Speech at the UN, June 20, 2017)

AICE does not rate or endorse any candidate for political office.

Sources: Editors, Nicki Haley Biography, (April 4, 2018).
United States Mission to the United Nations.
Nicki Haley, Wikipedia.
“US Amb. Haley’s Remarks at the UN on the Situation in the Middle East,” The United States Mission to the United Nations, (June 20, 2017).
Nikki Haley for President.
Marc Rod, “Haley hits Ramaswamy over call to curtail aid to Israel,” Jewish Insider, (August 21, 2023).
Andrew Lapin, “Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy spar over aid to Israel at first GOP debate,” JTA, (August 23, 2023).
“Daily Kickoff,” Jewish Insider, August 24, 2023).
Joseph Scutts, “An evening with Nikki Haley, defender of Israel,” Jerusalem Report, (September 18, 2023).
Matthew Kassel, “Nikki Haley leans into fighting campus antisemitism ahead of RJC summit,” Jewish Insider, (October 27, 2023).
Ryan King, “Nikki Haley rips Biden over antisemitism on college campuses — and vows to fix it,” New York Post, (October 25, 2023).
Lisa Lerer and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, “Haley Offers Scathing Critique of Trump at Jewish Republican Event in Las Vegas,” New York Times, (October 28, 2023).
Ron Kampeas, “‘Finish them’: GOP presidential candidates unite over what they’d advise Netanyahu about Hamas,” JTA, (November 9, 2023).
Ron Kampeas, “DeSantis: Israel may need to remove Palestinians from Gaza if it faces a ‘second Holocaust,’” JTA, (January 11, 2024).
Marc Rod, “Haley, blasting Biden’s foreign policy, says she supports Trump’s presidential run,” Jewish Insider, (May 22, 2024).

Photo: United States Department of State, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.