Commentary Magazine


Samantha Power Revisited

The blogsphere is buzzing once again over Samantha Power’s views on Israel. Power, the influential Obama advisor who had to leave his campaign after calling Hillary Clinton a “monster,” and revealing that the candidate does not really intend to leave Iraq in haste (now we know she was telling the truth), is back. Not a surprise to those even remotely familiar with the Obama circle of advisors.

She’s back, and with her comes concern over her past comments regarding Israel. “Both Ms. Power and [new National Security Advisor] General Jones have supported a role for international forces in the West Bank, whether UN or NATO, a concept that is anathema to even left of center Israelis,” writes the American Thinker. Eric Trager writes in Contentions, “This announcement will likely upset many in the blogosphere – including some of my Contentions colleagues – who previously exposed Power for her foolish statements and writings on Iran, Israel, and Iraq.” (Trager does try to be positive and expresses the hope that Power will play a role “as a key adviser in constructing a diplomatic strategy for providing relief” to Darfur).

Since I was one of few people who had the opportunity to interview Power about her views on Israel, when she was attacked by pro-Israel writers during the campaign (not long before she had to leave) – and since most Power detractors do bother to remind us of all her sins, but refrain from quoting the more reassuring remarks she’s made, I thought it is only fair to go back and refresh readers’ memory.

Here are a couple of paragraphs from the article I wrote after speaking with her. In this part of the interview, Power addresses the comments she’s made regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

In recent weeks, a young and talented writer named Noah Pollak, who writes for the right-wing magazine Commentary, has delved deeply into Power’s statements on record. Among other things, he found the following things she said, in a 2002 interview, about what should be done to stop the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “[It will] mean sacrificing – or investing, I think, more than sacrificing – billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence.”

In that same interview, Power said that the situation will “require external intervention.” Pollak very reasonably interpreted this as an expression of support for a “ground invasion of Israel and the Palestinian territories.” Otherwise, he wrote, what did she mean when she spoke of “a mammoth protection force”?

Power herself recognizes that the statement is problematic. “Even I don’t understand it,” she says. And also: “This makes no sense to me.” And furthermore: “The quote seems so weird.” She thinks that she made this statement in the context of discussing the deployment of international peacekeepers. But this was a very long time ago, circumstances were different, and it’s hard for her to reconstruct exactly what she meant. Anyway, what she she said five years ago is less important that what she wants to say now: She absolutely does not believe in “imposing a settlement.” Israelis and Arabs “will negotiate their own peace.”