New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently returned from the AIPAC Conference, one of the few progressive figures to attend the mega annual event. Among other things, De Blasio told the crowd, “As a progressive I have some real disagreements with the current Israeli government. I imagine many of you do, too. But that does not detract – it cannot detract – from the requirement that Israel must be defended.”
The Jewish Press briefly caught up with the mayor upon his return.
The Jewish Press: How was your AIPAC experience? How did people receive you?
Mayor Bill de Blasio: I felt it was a very warm reception. A lot of people told me they thought it was very important to have a progressive Democrat speaking at the conference and reminding people that the vast majority of the Democrats strongly support Israel and oppose the goals of BDS.
A number of high profile Democrats did back out. Any thoughts on that?
I think it was a mistake. But the leaders of the Democratic Party – the duly elected leaders, [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi, [House Majority Leader] Steny Hoyer – all spoke emphatically in favor of Israel and all oppose BDS. So those are the leaders of the party.
The people who did not attend – I respect them, but none of them have been chosen as the party’s nominee. I run the biggest city in the country and am a proud progressive Democrat and I spoke clearly. I want it to be clear that the Democratic Party and the progressive movement overwhelmingly support Israel and I think clearly oppose the goals of BDS
Do you think there is an increasing split between the Democrats and Republicans on support of Israel or policies regarding Israel – such as the White House formally recognizing the Golan heights as part of Israel?
No. I think the overwhelming view in the Democratic Party is that Israel’s best pathway to peace is a two-state solution. And as I said yesterday, let’s not confuse what we feel about the current Israeli government from what we feel about the state of Israel.
I myself believe in the two-state solution. So I can look at that and say what is the best way to get there. But the goal in the Democratic Party is abundantly clear: to support Israel and support a pathway to peace.
Do you have an opinion about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments and tweets regarding Israel?
I have very publicly said that suggestions that supporters of Israel have dual loyalties is absolutely inappropriate and is, unfortunately, an anti-Semitic construct – not acceptable. I support Israel; that doesn’t mean I have dual loyalties. Do I have a dual loyalty to my ancestral homeland of Italy? I’m a proud American, but I also believe in Israel, so I called her out on that.
Now, I do want to be fair to her: the more recent op-eds that she published certainly suggested a more positive view, and I hope she has learned something from her mistakes.