Is US envoy to UN a lady leopard with new spots?

By Jonathan Adelman, June 13, 2013

The recent announcement by the Obama administration of the appointment of Samantha Power as United States Ambassador to the United Nations has aroused consternation among many in the Jewish community.

In 2002, she supported a “mammoth protection force” delivering “external intervention”, essentially to invade Israel and protect the Palestinians, which would require “alienating a constituency of tremendous political and financial impact.” In 2008, she called Hillary Clinton a “monster” off camera during the election campaign.

Yet, numerous Jewish and non-Jewish friends of Israel have praised Mrs Power’s appointment. Alan Dershowitz, ADL leader Abe Foxman and former Senator Joseph Lieberman have been joined by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, in effusive support. Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has declared that, “Samantha Power and I have worked closely over the last four years on issues vital to the security of Israel. She thoroughly understands these issues and cares deeply about them.”

What has brought about this apparent transformation? We can only speculate as Mrs Power herself has not publicly discussed the issue.

During her time at college and law school, anti-Israel sentiment was pervasive. And her work in running a human-rights centre at the Kennedy School and teaching human rights at Harvard may have shaped her views.

Her metamorphosis evidently came in 2008, when she was forced to resign from the Obama campaign after the “monster” remark about Hillary Clinton.

That year, she redefined her position on Israel in an interview with Haaretz. In 2009, she strongly opposed American participation in the Israel bashing Durban II conference. Her four years working in the National Security Council as a special assistant to the President on human-rights issues could have shown her the dire consequences of isolating Israel at the United Nations. Working closely with Hillary Clinton and Michael Oren may have promoted her work in fighting the demonisation of Israel. Her study of genocide may have made her sympathetic to the argument that another Holocaust was not impossible.

So, today, it seems we should welcome the appointment of Samantha Power, something that would have seemed amazing only five years ago. Perhaps she will now denounce Richard Falk, the special rapporteur of the UN Human Rights Council, who once compared the Israelis in Gaza to Nazis in occupied Europe. Falk has been condemned by the European Union, United States and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon. Will Samantha Power add her voice to the chorus?

Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Last updated: 3:45pm, June 13 2013