New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio told reporters on Thursday, the day before he is scheduled to fly to Israel for a visit through Sunday:
I’m proud to be going at a moment when Israel is in need, and where friends need to stand and be counted.
We’re looking forward to what’s obviously going to be a sober environment, and a difficult environment, but I look forward to meeting with my fellow Israeli mayors and mayors from around the world to stand in solidarity with Israel.
He is scheduled to visit the Western Wall but also had planned to meet Palestinian Authority Arabs, a departure from the itinerary of his three predecessors, Michael R. Bloomberg, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Edward I. Koch, who restricted their trips to Israel to meetings with the country’s political and business leaders.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last year refused to accept an invitation from the Palestinian Authority ambassador to the United Nations to visit Arabs in Judea and Samaria.
DeBlasio will meet with Arabs, but not as he planned.
He had wanted to talk with Arabs in Ramallah, without meeting with Palestinian Authority officials, but the wave of terror has forced him settle for meeting them in Israel.
However, he says he is not afraid, explaining:
In terms of my own safety, I believe that Israeli security forces obviously know what they’re doing, and NYPD knows what it’s doing, and I’m very comfortable with that.
DeBlasio will meet with Arab children who learn with Jews at a school that was torched last year in an arson attack by Israeli extremists.
This is a region that needs peace deeply, and peace is elusive. One of the ways we foster peace is through inclusion. And our hopes have to be with the young people at this point. The previous generation hasn’t managed to find the path of peace.
Orthodox Jewish businessman Baruch Eliezer Gross is paying for the mayor’s trip.