Transcript: Nikki Haley on "Face the Nation," Dec. 10, 2017

President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has sparked protests across the Middle East. The move made good on one of Mr. Trump's campaign promises, but also reversed decades of policy that aimed to balance the interests of Palestinians and Israelis in the region.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley joined "Face the Nation" Sunday to answer questions about Mr. Trump's decision. We also discussed North Korea.

What follows is a transcript of the interview with Haley that airs Sunday, December 10, 2017, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. She joins us from New York. Welcome, Madam Ambassador. I want to start, well, you've seen the violence in response to the U.S. decision on the embassy. There's a lot of tension in the Middle East. With all that's going on and all that the U.S. has to deal with there, why was this a priority, and in America's national interest, to make this move right now?

NIKKI HALEY: Good morning, John. Well first of all, this is a move the American people have asked for, for 22 years. And six months ago, the Senate overwhelmingly, again, asked for the embassy to be moved. And I think you have to look at the fact that every presidential candidate, Republican or Democrat, has all said that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the embassy should be moved.

President Trump's the only one that had the courage to actually do that. And so what this does is, basically, do what we do in almost every other country, which is put the embassy in the capital city. And Jerusalem is where the prime minister is, the president is, the parliament, the Supreme Court. It makes sense for our embassy to be there.

JOHN DICKERSON: Given all that's happening in the world, why is it a priority to do this right now? And why is it worth paying the price of the increased violence?

NIKKI HALEY: Because it's the right thing to do. It is absolutely the right thing to do. And look, for the last 22 years, everyone around every president has said, "Just wait, just wait, just wait." And President Trump's not going to wait anymore.

JOHN DICKERSON: But explain why it's the right thing to do.

NIKKI HALEY: It's the right thing to do because it's just reality. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. They have said that. When the American people say they want something, it is -- it's their will that we're supposed to follow.

JOHN DICKERSON: But in this case, the U.S. is, critics believe, changing its role. It's stepping in more forcefully on the side of Israel, and that that sends a signal that it's not going to make things better. So explain how we get from this move to a better outcome and whether all this violence isn't going to delay a better outcome.

NIKKI HALEY: Well, first of all, I think that when you recognize the truth, when both parties recognize reality, peace comes. And that's just -- that's just the true reality of the situation. We are living in the reality that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But if you notice when the president spoke, he made it very clear. He didn't talk about boundaries, he didn't talk about borders, he didn't get into any of that because the final status of Jerusalem is between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It's not for the Americans to decide.

So we are doing what we do in every other country. Israel should be no different. And then we're going to continue to support the peace process. You know, courage breeds leadership. What you saw was a courageous move by the president. And of course any time you have to use courage, any time you have to go against the status quo, you're going to have people saying the sky is falling.

But the sky is not falling. If anything, what we're going to see is both sides are going to come to the table. They're going to decide what they think Jerusalem should look like. And we're going to support that process.

JOHN DICKERSON: Of course, people would -- the rebuttal would be that aggressive moves in the Middle East have often cost the United States a lot in blood and treasure. Let me ask you this question on a negotiating standpoint. One of the criticisms is the president gave up a bargaining chip that could be used in negotiation. Another view is the president has now given the Israelis something, and now he can ask something from them in return. Which of those two do you subscribe to?

NIKKI HALEY: So neither one of those is right. The president took Jerusalem off the table. That's what he did. Because that's something that we have always, people have said, used that as a bargaining chip. Let's be clear. The last 22 years, that was a bargaining chip, and it got us nowhere closer to peace.

What he did was take it off the table. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Take that off the table. Tell both sides to come together and say, "Okay, you decide how you want to split up Jerusalem. You decide if you're going to create boundaries or borders there." And let them decide.

There are going to be naysayers, John, that say, "You shouldn't do this, you shouldn't do this." But they also thought -- they also questioned the president when he first decided to strike for chemical weapons in Syria, and that was true leadership. They said the same thing when we started to push North Korea and push sanctions. That was true leadership. This, again, will go down in history to show he made the move that finally got the two parties to come to the table. And--

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me--

NIKKI HALEY: --it's okay for naysayers, but we know, at the end of the day, this was the right thing to do.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about North Korea. Lindsay Graham, South Carolina Senator, said the U.S. should start moving civilians out of South Korea. What's your response to that?

NIKKI HALEY: Well, I think we're watching North Korea very carefully. And, you know, if you look at the last ballistic missile launch, it had advanced quite a bit, compared to the missile before. And it's a concern. And what we will tell you is North Korea is the biggest threat we have right now, but we're not going to let that stop us. We're going to continue to be forceful. We're going to continue to have the international community join us, as they have. And we're going to make sure that we do everything we can to denuclearize North Korea.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a domestic issue here. There's a cultural shift going on in America right now. You saw it, three members of Congress kicked out of Congress because of sexual behavior, misdeeds. You were the first woman Senator of South Carolina. What do you think of this cultural moment that's happening?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, I am incredibly proud of the women who have come forward. I'm proud of their strength. I'm proud of their courage. And I think that the idea that this is happening, I think it will start to bring a conscience to the situation, not just in politics, but in, you know, we've seen in Hollywood and in every industry. And I think the time has come.

JOHN DICKERSON: Of course I'm wrong, you were the governor, first governor of South Carolina. Given that consciousness, how do you think people should assess the accusers of the president?

NIKKI HALEY: Well, I mean, you know, the same thing, is women who accuse anyone should be heard. They should be heard and they should be dealt with. And I think we heard from them prior to the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up.

JOHN DICKERSON: And does the election mean that's a settled issue?

NIKKI HALEY: You know, that's for the people to decide. I know that he was elected. But, you know, women should always feel comfortable coming forward. And we should all be willing to listen to them.

JOHN DICKERSON: Ambassador Nikki Haley, thanks so much for being with us.

NIKKI HALEY: Okay. Thanks, John.