Samantha Power: US-Israel ties transcend politics and always will

Speaking at AIPAC plenary, US ambassador to the UN downplays discord over possible Iran deal, cites US defense of Israel at UN

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Samantha Power speaking to AIPAC on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)
Samantha Power speaking to AIPAC on March 2, 2015. (Screen capture: via YouTube)

WASHINGTON — Speaking before some 16,000 delegates at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) annual policy conference on Monday morning, US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power gave a ringing endorsement of the Obama administration’s pro-Israel credentials while emphasizing that the US-Israel relationship transcends partisan politicking.

“We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the US-Israel relationship transcends politics and it always will,” Power declared to strong applause from the audience. Power acknowledged that delegates “may also have heard lately of tension in the relationship between the US and Israel,” but said that one should “separate politics, policy, and what the US does every day” regarding the relationship.

“This relationship should not be politicized and it cannot ever be tarnished or broken,” Power proclaimed, adding that the “stakes are too high” for politicizing the relationship.

In recent weeks, tensions have been high between he two countries’ respective administrations over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress on Tuesday, against the background of narrowing gaps between the P5+1 member states and Iran. Netanyahu has repeatedly warned that the US could be heading toward a “bad deal” and one of AIPAC activists’ three main bullet points during their lobby day Tuesday will be to remind Congress to only approve a “good deal.”

Power said that National Security Adviser Susan Rice will address the Iran talks when she speaks before the afternoon AIPAC plenary on Monday, but she emphasized that “the United States of American will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon period.”

The ambassador downplayed the distance between Israel – which wants Iran to be stripped of capacity for enriching uranium – and the United States – which wants increased monitoring in exchange for limited uranium enrichment. Addressing the at-times highly tense rhetoric back and forth between the two administrations, Power said that negotiations with Iran “have generated reasonable debate.”

In a pointed reference to concerns over the timeline for a sunset clause on a comprehensive nuclear agreement, Power vowed that “there will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. Never.”

“Our commitments to the State of Israel are bedrock commitments rooted in shared fundamental values and strengthened through bipartisan support,” Power proclaimed.

Power spoke at length about the challenges for Israel at the United Nations, but also noted that working together, the US and Israel had made progress since the “Zionism equals racism” resolution regarding Israel’s status at the international body.

Introducing Power, Michael Kassen, chairman of the AIPAC board, cited Power’s success in repelling “one-sided anti-Israel resolutions” in the UN, telling the audience that “in an era when much of the world has turned its back on the Jewish state, ambassador Power has steadfastly defended our ally Israel.”

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