WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's decision to appoint Samantha Power as the American ambassador to the UN has raised concerns in Jerusalem due to her past statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but during her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday Power said "The United States has no greater friend in the world than the State of Israel" and pledged to combat the "unacceptable bias" against Israel at the global body.
"Just as I have done as President Obama's UN adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it,” she said.
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Power also promised to fight to help Israel obtain a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council. Israel, which has never sat on the Security Council, wants to be admitted as a representative of the Western European group of countries.
"The Security Council seat is one that has eluded Israel, despite its many contributions across the years, and I commit to you wholeheartedly to go on offense, as well as playing defense on the legitimation of Israel, and we'll make every effort to secure greater integration of Israeli public servants in the UN system."
Speaking before Foreign Relations Committee, Power also expressed support for increasing pressure on Iran and maintaining the option of military force to deter its development of a nuclear weapons program.
"Israel—not Iran, not Sudan, not North Korea—is the one country with a fixed place on the Human Rights Council's agenda. Israel's legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt," Power said in her testimony.
During a 2002 discussion at the University of California-Berkeley about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Power recommended that the US divest its support from Israel's military and devote billions to "a mammoth protection force” in order to create a "meaningful military presence" in Israel.
"Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import,” Power said at the time, in an oblique reference to the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
During the nomination hearing, Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) pressed her on these comments. Power responded by saying they were part of "a long, rambling and remarkably incoherent response to a hypothetical question that I should never have answered."
"There is no shortcut" to a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she told the committee. "Unilateral Palestinian statehood measures just won’t work." Power said the US needs to "deter" such unilateral efforts.
Power also addressed the civil war in Syria, saying "We see the failure of the UN Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria - a disgrace that history will judge harshly."
Power, 42, a human-rights advocate and former journalist, took a leave from Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to work as a foreign policy adviser in Obama’s Senate office. She joined his 2008 presidential campaign and served on his National Security Council until earlier this year.
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