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.
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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.
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Power’s own positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never colored her work on issues relating to Israel and were hardly discussed, an Israeli official said. Power did mention, in passing conversations with Israelis, that more could be done to advance the peace process, noting that it could “make our work easier” at the U.N., but even that, the official said, was “voiced in a gentle manner.”

“We don’t agree on everything, but I believe that what is important is one’s character,” said Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a Republican who supports Jewish settlements in the West Bank but has been a vocal backer of Power. “I think it is safe to assume that she represents Obama’s views, and that means she’s against settlements,” he added.

For some on the hawkish end of the Jewish and pro-Israel community, Power’s strong positions on the need for American intervention to prevent genocide have struck a chord. “The genocide issue touches on the core of the Jewish community,” one of her supporters said. But it goes beyond issues relating directly to Israel. Power is considered to be among those who persuaded Obama to intervene militarily in Libya. And as U.N. ambassador she could be in a position to tilt the administration toward a similar move to stop the Syrian civil war. Power has not spoken out publicly about Syria, but she will likely be asked about her views on the issue during the Senate confirmation hearing of her nomination.

In 2011, Power gave an interview to Boteach in which she explained her previous comments on Israel. Several weeks later she agreed to meet with a group of Jewish leaders in New York. At the meeting, according to two participants, she became emotional when asked whether she was unsympathetic to Israel. She called the accusation “painful.”

But not all in the Jewish community have been satisfied with Power’s reassurances. Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America called for voting against Power’s nomination. “Ms. Power’s record clearly shows that she is viscerally hostile to Israel, regards it as a major human rights abuser, even committing war crimes, and would like to see the weight of American military and financial power go to supporting the Palestinian Authority, not Israel,” Klein said in a statement.

Power has forged close ties with many in the community, including Alan Dershowitz, a former law professor of hers at Harvard who has frequently criticized Obama’s policy on Israel; with leaders of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an organization focused on fighting anti-Semitism and racism; and with leaders of most major Jewish groups.

An administration insider recalled that whenever there was a need to convey a message to the Jewish community, the White House would divide the job of speaking to Jewish leaders among a select group of high-ranking officials.

Thanks to her good working ties with the community, Power was frequently on the list “There’s a tremendous connection on the substance level,” Bernstein said.

**Contact Nathan Guttman at guttman@forward.com or on Twitter,@nathanguttman


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