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

Samantha Power 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 Menendez (D-N.J.) that she would “go on offense and defense” to protect Israel's legitimacy at the U.N.

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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 Chambliss 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 Rubio (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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