Samantha Power is set to be the next US ambassador to the UN following overwhelming approval during her Senate Foreign Relations Committee appearance on Tuesday. Power made special note of her intention to defend Israel in the world body and work to secure a seat for the Jewish state on the Security Council by 2018.
After her approval by all but two of the 18-member Senate committee, Power is expected to easily win confirmation from the rest of the Senate.
Power, 42, is an expert on genocide, a champion of human rights, and a Harvard professor. She will replace Susan Rice, who has been appointed as America’s next National Security Advisor. Power earned a degree at Yale and worked as a journalist covering the Yugoslav wars from 1993-1996 before returning to the US and graduating from Harvard Law School.
Power is known to be ‘blunt and outspoken’ and has made a career out of her intellectual and critical engagement with human rights policy, especially on the topic of genocide. She promised to utilize her strong character traits an expertise to advocate America’s interest in the UN and to eliminate bias against Israel.
However, Power has not been received without criticism, especially in light of statements made about Israel in a 2002 interview at the University of California Berkeley’s Institute of International Studies. During the interview, Power was asked to conduct a “thought experiment” on how she would intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to protect human rights. Power responded that, given the opportunity, she would advise the president to “sacrifice billions of dollars in aid to the Jewish state” and instead allocate those funds for “the new state of Palestine instead.”
But now Power is seen openly condemning the UN’s “unacceptable bias” against Israel and pledging to “lobby hard” to get Israel a seat on the Security Council. So, what swayed her thinking? Maybe it was her marriage to Jewish lawyer Cass Sustein in 2008, or perhaps it was her more recent work with the administration in Washington that alternated her perspective.
During the recent confirmation hearing, Power stated, “What I believe in terms of Middle East peace is, I think, what is obvious to all of us here which is peace can only come about through a negotiated solution. There is no shortcut. That’s why Palestinian…unilateral statehood efforts within the UN system — shortcuts of that nature just won’t work.” With such comments Power quickly won over her critics in the pro-Israel community.
But Republican Senator Marco Rubio, one of only two to vote against Power, was unconvinced, saying she had “failed to distance herself” from past statements “and offered insufficient explanation, leaving me with serious concerns about some of her views.”
Coming to Power’s aid was Shmuley Boteach, perhaps America’s most famous rabbi, who wrote in the Times of Israel that when Power was taking questions regarding the accusations against her in a closed door meeting with 40 American Jewish leaders, “she suddenly became deeply emotional and struggled to complete her presentation as she expressed how deeply such accusations had affected her.”
Boteach continued: “Tears streamed down her cheeks and I think it fair to say that there was no one in the room who wasn’t deeply moved by this incredible display of pain and emotion. More than a few of the leaders of the room came over to me afterward and said that, based on her comments and her unabashed display of emotional attachment to the security of the Jewish people…they would never again question her commitment to Israel’s security.”
In the words of Boteach, “the greatest challenge now facing Power will be changing the UN.”