New York Governor Andrew Cuomo started out his top-billed solidarity in Israel Wednesday with a visit to President Reuven Rivlin and a rejection of an invitation to take a side trip to Ramallah.
“Our message is simple and it is clear: We stand with Israel and we support Israel,” he said. “Everyone wants the killing to stop, but at the same time, Israel must have the right to defend itself. That is the message we will convey.”
With 81 percent of the state’s Jews having expressed preference for Cuomo in the 2010 pre-election polls, he is going for broke in the re-election campaign and does not seem too worried about the Arab vote.
“I think that the governor is choosing to be reflective of only one constituency in this conflict,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, told The Wall Street Journal.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador to the United Nations, where it is a permanent observer, was ambassador to the U.N. of Palestinian’s permanent observer mission, wrote a letter protesting the solidarity trip. “The responsible action would be to visit the Palestinian people and their leadership too and to see firsthand the wider context of this conflict,” he wrote.
Thanks, but no thanks. The governor’s officials deftly explained that the invitation was received too late to allow for a change in his schedule.
He would have a hard time explaining to Jews his “solidarity trip” by visiting Ramallah and would have an equally hard trip explaining to Mahmoud Abbas how much he supports Israel.
The governor did not directly reject the Palestinian Authority invitation but stated, “This trip is to show solidarity with Israel, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Republican State Sen. Dean G. Skelos, who also is on the tour, was more direct and declared, “Why would I want to go there and give any credibility to Hamas?”
Cuomo stated after the trip was announced, “New York has always had a special relationship with Israel. As Hamas and other terrorist organizations continue to threaten Israel, now is the time to deliver that message of solidarity in person.”
He has visited Israel three times, once as U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and he met with Yasser Arafat.
That was then.
The governor and senior New York legislators set up a photo-op, complete with American, New York and Israeli flags before he left the El Al terminal at JFK Tuesday night.
The itinerary for the governor’s trip includes the usual – a meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and a visit to the Western Wall.
Cuomo also will visit with Israelis who were under bombardment from Gaza missiles in the war.