De Blasio to Make First Visit to Israel as Mayor

NEW YORK -

Mayor Bill de Blasio will visit Israel this week for a two-day trip, his first visit as mayor to the country he has passionately defended to his progressive base, his spokeswoman announced on Thursday.

The visit, comes as Israelis face their worst security crisis in a decade. It is being paid for by a private Israeli citizen, said spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick. However, the mayor will tend to some governmental business as well, keynoting the Annual Conference of Mayors.

The Conference is hosted by the American Jewish Congress, the American Council for World Jewry, and the World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jewry, and will bring together dozens of mayors from around the world. The mayor will speak on the topic “Anti-Semitism in the West: How Cities Must Lead.”

While security costs for the trip will be covered by the NYPD, Israeli entrepreneur Baruch Eliezer Gross is paying for the travel and hotel bills.

Since taking office at the beginning of 2014, de Blasio has repeatedly said he would visit Israel. Recently, he promised that the visit would take place in 2015. The mayor has emerged as a consistent defender of Israel in the United States, even as he faced a backlash from the progressive movement that elected him.

On Tuesday, de Blasio issued a statement on the terror attacks earlier in the day, during which three Israelis lost their lives.

“I’m heartbroken by today’s attacks that took the lives of three innocent Israelis and left many others wounded,” the mayor said. “…There is simply no place for violence — and we all must speak out against the loss of any innocent life. We continue to pray for the day in which the Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who visited Israel during the battle in Gaza last year, also issued a statement.

The governor said it was “the latest in a senseless spree of terror that has shaken the people of Israel and claimed the lives of numerous civilians in recent weeks — and the violence must stop. I have said many times before that friends stand together in times of crisis, and this remains true today. As we continue to pray for peace, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of Israel, especially those most affected during this troubling time.”