NEW YORK — US permanent representative to the UN Samantha Power reaffirmed her support for normalizing Israel at the UN, saying Israel and its allies need to slowly “chip away” at the stereotypes and prejudice that have been racked up against Israel over the years.
Addressing the American Jewish Committee’s Board of Governors on Monday morning, Power expressed relief that Israel had finally —“finally!” she said — managed to join the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) at the UN in Geneva, giving it a caucusing group. “The question is how do we chip away, and make Israel like any old country at the UN?” she asked. “How do we showcase what Israel has to offer?”
Power pointed to the entrepreneurship resolution in the General Assembly that Israel sponsored and passed with 143 votes, lauding Ambassador Ron Prosor for running the vote and challenging the prejudices that many countries hold against Israel. “It required some countries to take the ideological blinders off, especially for those who just vote no on anything Israel has to offer,” Power said.
“It’s important to remember that more than half of the countries within the UN are not democratic; they’re repressive and they’re looking for alibis, for ways to change the conversation to something that might help them on the street but will do nothing at all for their people,” Power said. “We’re trying to point to the facts and make a strong case that this [supporting initiatives like the entrepreneurship bill] will be good for their people and the UN as a whole.”
Another reason to “chip away” at Israel’s image at the UN is Israel’s upcoming bid for a seat on the 2019-2020 Security Council, for which Israel is facing off against Germany and Belgium, two countries with a bit more clout and a few fewer enemies in the General Assembly. Does Israel actually stand a chance, asked AJC executive director David Harris?
“We strongly support Israel’s candidacy,” Power said, launching into an analogy of how pulling for Israel at the UN is like being a fan of the Boston Red Sox: “Unlike the Yankees fans in the audience, we know what it’s like to be three-nothing and still find a way to pull a rabbit out of a hat,” she said, to some appreciative laughter and applause from the brave Sox fans in the audience.
“This will be challenging,” she continued. “But I will never give up. It’s a long game, but this will be another chip-away moment. We go in, as with all things, seeking the ultimate success.”
Power also addressed the growing boycott, divest, and sanction movement which she said she could see “picking up steam on college campuses.”We will oppose boycott and divesting at every turn,” she said, but added, “I think progress on the peace process — which will be challenging and I think a lot of people wouldn’t have thought we’d get this far — but I think that progress could neuter those campaigns.”
“I with think our success on WEOG, there’s a sense that Israel is negotiating in good faith in this process,” Power said, in response to a question from the audience on the peace process and the view of settlement policies and prisoner releases. “There’s a sense that there’s tremendous American energy behind it. The secretary [of state John Kerry] has a great passion for the cause of peace. Israelis and Palestinians are in the midst of something challenging and monumental.”
Power also touched on the humanitarian situation in Syria, which she called “heartbreaking” and compared in part to the Ethiopian famine, and called out the Russian delegation for blocking event a humanitarian resolution from passing through the Security Council.