Power Says U.S.-Israel Relations Transcend Political SplitsAngela Greiling Keane and Toluse Olorunnipa
The U.S. has a bedrock commitment to Israel’s security and will never allow the Jewish state to be threatened by a nuclear-armed Iran, Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said.
Speaking in Washington to the largest pro-Israel lobbying group, Power said President Barack Obama’s administration won’t agree to terms of any deal with Iran that would allow it to gain a nuclear weapon and put at risk U.S. security or that of its closest allies.
“We believe firmly that Israel’s security and the U.S.- Israel partnership transcends politics and it always will,” Power said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference Monday. “There will never be a sunset on America’s commitment to Israel’s security. Never.”
Her remarks preceded an address to the group by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is at odds with the Obama administration over the course of U.S.-led negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. Power and National Security Adviser Susan Rice, two of Obama’s top foreign policy advisers, were dispatched to represent the White House at the conference as part of an administration attempt to ease a moment of high tension in the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The Israeli leader also sought to turn down the temperature of the rhetoric, telling the audience that it wasn’t true that Israel’s relationship with the U.S. has soured and that his speech to Congress on Tuesday is “not intended to show any disrespect for President Obama.”
Even so, Netanyahu said he has “a moral obligation to speak out” against an Iranian regime that threatens to destroy Israel. He said that Israel and the U.S. disagree over how to keep the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Netanyahu is addressing a joint meeting of Congress at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner, which was extended without consultation with the White House. The Obama administration has characterized the invitation as a breach of protocol and a political move by the prime minister two weeks before the Israeli election. Rice last week called the speech to lawmakers “destructive” to the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Obama, who spoke at AIPAC in 2012, isn’t planning to meet with Netanyahu while he’s in Washington.
Power made reference to the controversy in one of the lighter moments of an address designed to emphasize the unwavering support the U.S. provides for Israel.
“As a few of you may have heard, the prime minister of Israel is in town,” she said. “Rumor has it he may be giving a couple speeches.”
Power said that debating policy differences is useful and necessary to finding solutions. She said that while it has caused friction in the U.S.-Israel relationship, the talks with Iran have yielded progress.
“The United States will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon, period,” she said, adding that Rice would talk more extensively about the negotiations when she speaks later Monday.
Power echoed remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry earlier in the day to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, saying that the U.S. has repeatedly defended Israel at the United Nations and other venues.
“The United States has stood shoulder to shoulder with our partner through thick and thin,” she said.
In his speech to U.S. lawmakers, Netanyahu intends to raise questions about the Iran negotiations in a bid to get U.S. lawmakers to force a delay an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, according to an official traveling with him.
Obama administration officials have said an attempt by Congress to intervene would wreck chances for an accord between Iran and world powers. Negotiators are working under deadline at the end of the month to come up with the framework of an agreement. The aim of the talks is to stem Iran’s ability to develop a nuclear weapon in exchange for an easing of international sanctions that have hobbled Iran’s economy.
U.S. officials have never said the chances of success were better than 50-50, and privately some American negotiators are much more pessimistic than that.