Mon, Oct 19, 2015 - Page 6 News List

NYC mayor visits Israel on ‘solidarity’ mission


New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio places a note on the Western Wall in Jerusalem yesterday.

Photo: AP

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Saturday began a brief visit to Israel, saying he was on a solidarity mission to the nation at a “painful moment” after weeks of violence.

De Blasio is in the country amid a month-long spate of unrest that has left eight Israelis and 40 Palestinians dead.

On Saturday, Israel reported five stabbing attacks in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Four of the alleged assailants were killed.

“It’s a painful moment here in Israel, it’s a moment when I am certainly here in solidarity with the people of Israel,” De Blasio said during a visit with students from a mixed Israeli-Palestinian school. “This has to stop obviously. Look, these are attacks on civilians... No one should be condoning attacks against civilians.”

De Blasio met with Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai in the seaside city before attending an event in the central town of Beit Shemesh sponsored by the school.

The Jerusalem school, which was targeted by arsonists last year, is a rare symbol of coexistence in Jerusalem.

Later in the day, De Blasio met Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and went to a hospital to visit the Israelis who were stabbed.

“We feel extraordinary closeness, our people, by blood, by history,” De Blasio said after the hospital visit. “So when you are going through pain, we feel pain too. When you’re under attack, we feel under attack, and I’m honored to be here in that spirit of solidarity and sense of common destiny.”

A trip to Israel is a staple for New York mayors, who represent a large Jewish constituency. This is De Blasio’s first visit as mayor and his fourth overall.

Aides said De Blasio considered a trip to the West Bank, but it was scuttled because of security concerns.

He was not scheduled to meet with any Palestinian leaders.

The three-day trip is being paid for by Baruch Eliezer Gross, a Brooklyn resident and founder of the Besadno Group, an investment firm with offices in Jerusalem and New York.

The city’s Conflict of Interest Board approved the donation.

De Blasio said it was “absolutely appropriate,” adding that the gift prevented taxpayers from being burdened with the costs.

This was the first international trip for De Blasio paid for by an individual.

The latest series of unrest began last month, with clashes at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site and quickly spread across Israel and into the West Bank and Gaza.

A series of attacks, mostly stabbings, have unnerved Israel, which has responded by beefing up security nationwide and imposing checkpoints in Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Palestinians say the unrest is the result of years of occupation and failed hopes for gaining independence.

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