Power: Don’t politicize U.S.-Israel relations

Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The stakes for Israel and the United States are too high to politicize the relationship, Samantha Power, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations, told AIPAC.

“This partnership should never be politicized, and it cannot and will not be tarnished or broken,” Power said Monday at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference in Washington.

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Power spoke just before an appearance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has stirred administration ire by arranging with Republicans in Congress to speak before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday against President Barack Obama’s Iran policies.

“Debating the most effective policy, both within our respective democracies and among partners, is more than useful – it is a necessary part of arriving at informed decisions. Politicizing that process is not,” Power said. “The stakes are too high for that.”

Netanyahu opposes nuclear talks underway between Iran and the major powers, saying the deal being shaped concedes too much to Iran and will leave it a nuclear threshold state.

Power repeated assurances that the Obama administration shared Israel’s strategic goals, even if there were differences on tactics, and suggested that force was still an option.

“Maybe the president has made this point so often that it is not heard in the same way anymore, but we have to keep repeating it – talks, no talks, agreement, no agreement – the United States will take whatever steps are necessary to protect our national security and that of our closest allies,” she said. “We believe diplomacy is the preferred route to secure our shared aim, but if diplomacy should fail, we know the stakes of a nuclear-armed Iran as well as everyone here. We will not let it happen.”

Power also alluded to Israeli concerns about reports that the United States is prepared to accept a “sunset clause” allowing Iran to shuck restrictions in 10 years to 15 years.

“There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security,” she said.

Power referred to increasing anti-Semitism around the world, especially in Europe, and described her efforts defending Israel at the United Nations. She said she would not flag in that area.

“It is a false choice to tell Israel that it has to choose between peace and security,” she said. “The United Nations would not ask any other country to make that choice, and it should not ask it of Israel.”