Power: U.S.-Israel relationship ‘transcends politics’

Updated 12:23 PM EST, Mon March 2, 2015
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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power on Monday sought to quash any doubts over the United States’ continued commitment to a strong alliance with Israel, amid tensions over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress on Tuesday.

Power directly addressed the controversy swirling around Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, downplaying talk of tensions between the U.S and Israel and insisting that the U.S.-Israel relationship “transcends politics.” Her remarks came at the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual, high-profile conference, just moments before Netanyahu took over the podium.

“We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the U.S.- Israel partnership transcends politics. It always will,” Power said. “This partnership should never be politicized and it cannot and will not be tarnished or broken.”

RELATED: With hard feelings all around, White House set to rebut Netanyahu

Netanyahu’s plans to address the Iranian threat at a joint session of Congress on Tuesday has sparked a political fight in Washington, with a few dozen Democrats planning to skip Netanyahu’s speech and Republicans seizing on the opportunity to question the Obama administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.

Power insisted that the “bond between the United States and Israel is still a national commitment,” amid concerns that the controversy over Netanyahu’s visit was revealing a partisan divide on Israel.

“It should never be a partisan matter,” Power said. “we cannot and we will not lose sight of that.”

Power vehemently dismissed talk of a rift between the U.S. and Israel, pointing to her work at the United Nations defending Israel against biased attacks, the Obama administration’s more than $20 billion in military assistance to Israel – “far more than any president in U.S. history,” she said – and President Barack Obama’s commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

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Power pointed to Obama’s repeated insistence that the U.S. will “never” allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, whether or not the diplomatic talks are successful.

“We will not let it happen,” Power said. “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,” Power said.

“There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security,” Power said, appearing to refer to suggestions that the U.S. might broker an agreement with Iran that would expire in 10 years.

Power also trained in on the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, honing in on anti-Semitic rhetoric masquerading as anti-Israel demonstrations.

RELATED: Boehner hits Obama over Netanyahu visit

Addressing the most prominent pro-Israel body in the U.S., Power also highlighted her work at the United Nations to fight anti-Israel bias at the United Nations, citing a decrease in the percentage of resolutions targeting Israel in the organization’s human rights body – from half to one-third – though she said more work still remains.

Power also did not shy away from reaffirming the U.S.’s position that “Israeli settlement activity hurts prospects for peace,” but insisted that that is by no means the only roadblock to peace.

“It is a false choice to tell Israel that it has to choose between peace on the one hand and security on the other,” Power said, adding that no other country would face that choice and “it should not be asked of Israel.”

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