Sunday / March 24.
HomeNewsboxCuomo, Citing ‘Wave of Anti-Semitism,’ Pays Impromptu Visit to Israel

Cuomo, Citing ‘Wave of Anti-Semitism,’ Pays Impromptu Visit to Israel

In Jerusalem — where the governor will spend most if not all of his time outside the airport — he will meet with the mayor, Nir Barkat, and a group of business leaders.

The impromptu nature of Mr. Cuomo’s trip is not accidental. With a rash of anti-Semitic threats and racist vandalism occurring in New York and nationwide, the governor said he had made a deliberate decision to travel to Israel now as a show of support.

“The undercurrent is this: There has been a wave of anti-Semitism, and it has been very disturbing to members of the Jewish community,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. That anxiety, he said, needed to be addressed with substantial, intercontinental gestures.

“Yeah, you could go down the block to a temple, but if you’re really sincere, you do more,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You act more boldly. And the actions should be commensurate to the grievances.”

That said, Mr. Cuomo also added an appearance at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan on Saturday just before heading off for his 10-hour flight.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat in his second term, insisted that the trip was not politically motivated, but a genuine response to the surge in anti-Semitic acts, while noting that it would also include state business, including several economic announcements.

The trip is being paid for by the state, not by Mr. Cuomo’s campaign, though its exact cost was unclear. Still, experts said the trip was likely to pay dividends among Jewish voters and supporters, a core constituency for any elected official from New York, which has the largest population of Jewish residents outside Israel.

“The Jewish community, that is still very important in New York electoral politics,” said Gerald Benjamin, a professor of political science at the State University at New Paltz, “and in the financing of them and national campaigns.”

Mr. Benjamin was referring to speculation surrounding Mr. Cuomo, whose name has come up as a possible Democratic candidate for president in 2020.

But on Friday, Mr. Cuomo spoke in candid terms about the connection — or lack of one, he said — between his advocacy and his ambitions.

“I’ve always stayed away from the presidential stuff because of what happened with my father,” Mr. Cuomo said, apparently referring to the wistful what-ifs over Mario M. Cuomo’s flirtation with — and ultimate decision against — a run for president in 1992.

“That’s not what this is about,” the governor said. “This is something I’ve always done, and this is an action I would always take.”

Mr. Cuomo’s timing is also either ingenious or auspicious: On Friday, the anti-Semitic threats became major news again after federal officials — including Mr. Cuomo’s sometime foil, Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York — announced the arrest of a former reporter accused of making some of those threats.

Mr. Cuomo’s last trip to Israel, in 2014, was also pegged to the news: at a time of military action in the Gaza Strip. The governor visited Gaza during that trip, his first foreign excursion as governor, touring a tunnel near the border that Israel said had been covertly built by Hamas. He declined an invitation to visit Palestinian territory during the trip, and has said he would not have time to meet with Palestinian Arabs on this visit.

The 2014 trip was not a solo mission: Mr. Cuomo led a delegation of elected officials, including the then-speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and the then-leader of the Senate, Dean G. Skelos.

This time, Mr. Cuomo is alone; both Mr. Skelos and Mr. Silver were convicted of federal corruption charges, and their successors — Carl E. Heastie in the Assembly and John J. Flanagan in the Senate — did not come along.

That may provide Mr. Cuomo with more room to shine, though he denied that seeking the spotlight had anything to do with making what amounted to 12,000-mile day trip.

“Yes, it’s a long trip for a short period of time and yes, it’s a dramatic action,” Mr. Cuomo said. “And that’s the point.”

Continue reading the main story