WASHINGTON – Immediately after news broke that President Barack Obama would
elevate Susan Rice to the position of national security adviser, pro- Israel
organizations showered her in praise. Accolades were unanimous; she has the
community’s full support.
Her possible replacement as US ambassador to
the United Nations, Samantha Power, did not receive the same warm reception.
Instead, an old video of Power from 2002 began recirculating, in which she seems
to characterize the American Jewish lobby with disdain and proposes a “mammoth”
international peacekeeping force to protect a future Palestinian
The former Harvard Kennedy School professor then refers to “major
human rights abuses that we’re seeing” in the historic conflict.
something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of
tremendous political and financial import,” Power says with an apparent
Power disowned her comments from that interview in 2008. But
concerned parties will likely require further explanation during her nomination
process, considering the particular relevance of her comments to the job she
will have in New York.
Perhaps no other US nomination has more effect on
Israel’s diplomatic state than of its ambassador to the UN, where American
statesman often stand alone defending Israel’s legitimacy. Part of why Susan
Rice garnered so much praise – even from Obama in his Rose Garden announcement
on Monday, when he specifically mentioned her efforts with distinction – is
because she conducted such a robust and persistent defense.
Palestinian officials continue to threaten referral of Israel to the
International Criminal Court, Power will be responsible for coordinating a
The Anti-Defamation League, an organization considered
to be uniquely sensitive to any hints of anti-Semitism, came out with a
statement calling her a champion for human rights with a purist agenda in
support of liberal democratic ideals in a tumultuous Middle
“Samantha engaged in an all-hands- on-deck US campaign against
Palestinian unilateral efforts in the UN to circumvent peace negotiations,” the
ADL statement reads.
“She experienced first-hand the hostility faced by
Israel and the abuse of the UN bodies to promote anti-Israel
Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) also came out quickly with an
endorsement of Power, calling her “well-qualified for this important position.
“I hope the Senate will move forward on her nomination as soon as possible,”
Both known as humanitarian interventionists, Power and Rice
were strong voices in the White House for American involvement in Libya, causing
many to question how they will advise the president as Syria begins to boil
But both women have been close to Obama since the start of his
presidency. It is unlikely that he selected Rice and Power for fresh
perspectives, probably choosing them to tighten his national security and
diplomacy circle into a team of loyalists, familiar with his preferences and
having the confidence in him required to follow his lead.
blocking Power difficult for apprehensive pro- Israel groups, which are weighing
the benefits of their opposition to the consequences of denying the president
his choice. Just as in the nomination of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, these
lobbies are likely to swallow their skepticism and save their political capital
for bigger fights.