Obama UN pick pledges to 'work tirelessly to defend' Israel

Samantha PowerSamantha PowerThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report House Intel panel interviews Rice in Russia probe MORE promised Wednesday to "stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it" as she sought to put to rest lawmaker concerns about her support for the U.S. ally.

“Israel's legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt,” Obama's nominee to serve as ambassador to the United Nations told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“Just as I have done the last four years as President Obama's adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it,” Power said.

Power also told Chairman Robert MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Poll finds little support for Menendez reelection Judge tells Menendez lawyer to 'shut up' MORE (D-N.J.) that she would “go on offense and defense” to protect Israel's legitimacy at the U.N.

Power has been criticized for comments she made during an academic discussion in 2002 urging a “mammoth protection force” to prevent hypothetical atrocities between Israelis and Palestinians, even if that “might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.”

Power has since disowned the remarks, and said Wednesday that peace in the Middle East “can only come about a negotiated solution.” 

Power was Obama's point-person in trying to convince the Palestinians not to seek statehood at the U.N. last year, sources told The Hill, a role that endeared her to many champions of Israel in Washington even though she was ultimately unsuccessful.

She also worked hard to win over influential Jewish Americans, personally calling celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to make her case, according to Foreign Policy.

“Samantha power just gave powerful opening presentation,” Boteach tweeted Wednesday. “said israel america's closest friend, UN passes one-sided resolutions against israel.”

Power is expected to sail to confirmation after winning over key Republicans she's met with over the past couple of weeks. She was introduced by the two Republican senators from Georgia, where she attended high school, with Sen. Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissFormer GOP senator: Let Dems engage on healthcare bill OPINION: Left-wing politics will be the demise of the Democratic Party GOP hopefuls crowd Georgia special race MORE calling her “one smart tough lady.”

She did have a few stumbles during the hearing, blandly repeating that “the U.S. is the greatest country in the world” when Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Senate passes 0B defense bill Trump bets base will stick with him on immigration MORE (R-Fla.) pressed her to explain what she had in mind when she called in 2003 “a historical reckoning with crimes committed, sponsored, or permitted by the United States.” 

Earlier, she vowed to be a “blunt, outspoken champion of American values and of human rights.” 

Other top priorities, she said, include reforming the U.N. to become “more efficient and effective” and standing up for human rights and human dignity. She also vowed to do “everything in my power to reduce the U.S. share” of the U.N. budget, now at 22 percent of the regular budget and 27 percent of the peacekeeping budget.

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