New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday said defending Israel was part of his “job description,” and urged Washington to boycott Saudi Airlines for denying Israeli citizens the right to fly with them.
At a closed-door AIPAC function in New York, de Blasio, who succeeded Michael Bloomberg less than a month ago, said he felt a part of his job description was “to be a defender of Israel.”
Addressing the pro-Israel lobby in what some media outlets termed a “secret” speech, de Blasio said his belief in Israel and the United States’ obligation to defend it not only had “a philosophical grounding,” but was also “something that is elemental to being an American.”
Proudly asserting that the US has “no greater ally on earth” than Israel, de Blasio said New York shared a deep connection with the Jewish state due to its own large Jewish population.
“But our connection is much deeper than a simple demographic one,” de Blasio said. “It’s also about values” shared by Israelis and New Yorkers alike, such as “the belief in democracy and open discourse.”
De Blasio said another similarity between Israelis and New Yorkers was that “Israelis are never shy about offering an opinion,” and that residents of both states took pride in their sense of place – in living in Israel and New York, respectively.
Yet another similarity, according to de Blasio, was that both New Yorkers and Israelis lived in “constant fear” and “constant horror” of terror while still living their lives to the fullest.
Israelis “refuse to let it stop them,” he said. “We take inspiration from Israel for how to stare down terrorism and keep moving forward. That sustains us here in New York as well.”
De Blasio added that as mayor, he was committed not just to maintaining the alliance between Israel and the United States, but to strengthening it.
The mayor then told the audience about his three visits to Israel, recounting that he found his trip to the rocket-battered southern city of Sderot particularly moving.
“We saw what it meant for everyday families that wanted to have time with their kids to play. They had to be in a missile-proof, bomb-proof play area, because you could not know otherwise if your children would be safe or not,” he said.
“You can’t have an experience like that and not feel solidarity with the people of Israel and know that they’re on the front line of fighting against so many challenges.”
De Blasio went on to urge Washington to boycott Saudi Airlines, which denies Israelis the right to board their planes.
“I don’t think they belong in our airports,” he said, adding that the airline was violating US law by discriminating against Israeli citizens.
“You have a friend and an ally at City Hall,” de Blasio concluded. “City Hall will always be open to AIPAC.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, was sworn in as mayor of New York earlier in January, formally becoming the city’s 109th mayor while pledging to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda.