For Samantha Power, Support for Israel Is Deeply Personal — and Proven

U.N. Envoy Wins Over Jewish Community With Track Record

Power Play: Samantha Power, shown here with President Obama, leaves little to chance, especially when it comes to shoring up support around Israel.
getty images
Power Play: Samantha Power, shown here with President Obama, leaves little to chance, especially when it comes to shoring up support around Israel.

By Nathan Guttman

Published June 15, 2013, issue of June 21, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

During a White House meeting with Israeli officials in 2009, Samantha Power, like any other proud mother, pulled out a photo of her infant son. In speaking to the admiring crowd, she added a surprising detail: Her son, she said, is a descendant, from his father’s side, of the Vilna Gaon, Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman Kremer, the 18th-century Jewish sage who is considered the greatest talmudic scholar of his time.

This impressive lineage — a product of Power’s marriage to prominent law professor Cass Sunstein — offers some insight into Power’s personal sense of connection to Jews. But it is not the key to understanding her strong backing within the Jewish and pro-Israel communities, despite past statements that have been seen as critical of Israel and of the American lobby that backs it.

Power, who was recently chosen by President Obama to serve as the next ambassador to the United Nations, has made inroads to the community, thanks to her hands-on work in support of Israel at the United Nations and at other international forums.

“Her starting point has always been, ‘How do we work together to overcome obstacles and to ensure that both the United States and Israel get out of these U.N. situations with the least damage?” said Dan Arbel, who served as deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington. Arbel described his work experience with Power as “very collegial, friendly and frank.”

It is a practical approach that has blunted much of the ideological debate over Power’s views and thoughts on Israel, and on Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank. Thanks to Power’s concrete track record, her confirmation hearing in the Senate is unlikely to involve confrontations over Israel of the sort that recently flared during the hearings to confirm Obama’s nominee for defense secretary, former Senator Chuck Hagel, who also had a record of statements critical of Israel.

Israeli counterparts have found in Power a close ally, though they note that her efforts on Israel’s behalf do not necessarily signal blind support for its policies, especially as they relate to the issue of exclusive Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Middle East wasn’t Power’s area of expertise before she joined the administration. A renowned writer and activist on genocide prevention, Power, 42, began to focus on the region only in 2009, after assuming the position of senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council, a role that complements that of the U.N. ambassador and offers the perspective of the White House on issues relating to international bodies.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.