Thursday, June 06, 2013

Power’s Moment of Truth

Samantha Power
President Obama’s choice to replace outgoing UN Ambassador Susan Rice – who was ‘promoted’ to national security adviser – is Samantha Power. (For some reason that name makes me think of the 60s TV series Bewitched – but I digress.)

First let me say that I support Susan Rice. She has been an effective defender of Israel during her tenure at the UN.  Anyone who thinks otherwise does not realize that she spent the majority of her time there doing precisely that. Furthermore, I think she got a bad rap with respect to misstating the facts about the Benghazi attacks. She was told what to say by the administration and probably believed at some level that she was telling the truth. If anyone was at fault there – it was either the President, the State Department, the CIA or all three.

Samantha Power is another story. She is an enigma to me. If one looks purely at the comments she made about Israel in the video below, one would have to conclude that this will be the most anti-Israel US Ambassador to the UN in US history. It’s kind of hard to spin anything positive about someone who responds to a question about a possible genocide on the part of Israelis against Palestinians with anything other than a strong rejection of that possibility in a country full of Holocaust survivors!

But that is not what Ms. Power did. Back in 2002 when this interview took place she actually gave a serious answer to the question as though such an atrocity were possible. And as if that was not bad enough – her answer was very revealing as to what her attitude about Israel really is. It makes J-Street's attitude look good by contrast.

She actually said that the US should no longer fund the Israeli military and instead give all those billions of dollar in aid to the Palestinians so that they can build their own State of Palestine.  She even hinted that commensurate force should be used to counteract any abuse in the ground. I doubt that she was thinking of Palestinian abuse of Israelis. My guess is that she was thinking about the perceptions by some that Israelis abuse Palestinians via their occupation tactics. (Although I have not seen her quoted that way – I would not be surprised if she considered Israel an apartheid state and even supported the BDS boycott privately.)

She didn’t stop there. She realized that this approach would “(alienate) a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import but that the US President should have the courage to overcome their objections to it.

I wonder which constituency she was talking about? Could it be the Episcopalians?

This is not a stupid woman. She was at the time an Academic at Harvard. She has to know that without Israel’s military edge, there would indeed be a genocide. But it would be the Palestinians (led by Hamas and Hezbollah with a blessing from Iran) doing it to the Israelis.

If this is all that would be known about her, it would be a no brainer to oppose her. And it would be reckless and shocking that the President would ever choose someone who is so clearly pro-Palestinian… to the point of endangering the very existence of Israel.

I realize that Secretary of Defense Hagel had made some negative comments about Israel too - when he was a US senator. I was very critical of that at the time of his nomination to that post. I have since come to give him the benefit if the doubt. But his comments were mild in comparison to those of Ms. Power.

Ms. Powers has disavowed what she said about Israel in that interview. She regrets making those comments and says that this does not in any way reflect her real view – which is strong support for the Jewish State.  I’m not sure just how much I believe her at this point. But in all fairness and bending over backwards to give her the benefit of the doubt - the question she got was a hypothetical one from a UC Berkeley interviewer whose own bias was reflected by the way he asked his question. 

Ms. Power is known for her advocacy of human rights and her anti-genocide work. (Those are red flags for me in the context of the UN). She was letting her thoughts lead her in an anti genocide direction and not necessarily thinking things entirely through. It should also be noted that she has received support from John McCain – a staunch supporter of Israel.

But still - the fact that she ended up with those terrible comments during that interview  – even if they were just in response to the moment - leaves me with some serious questions about what she will do in that bastion of human rights activism – the UN. Will she be the strong defender of Israel that Susan Rice was? Or will she be thinking about ways to push forward an agenda that is pro-Palestinian at heart without seeming to be anti Israel in the process?

Israel cannot afford to have any more antagonism at the UN than it already has. I’m not sure that Ms. Power will be an asset in that regard. Even if directed to do so by the President. My hope is that she gets a thorough vetting from a pro Israel congress during her confirmation hearings.  We need to know where she really stands. Israel needs all the help it can get in the UN. Up The last thing Israel needs is a US Ambassador to the UN that sees Israel as a human rights violator.