ALBANY — Gov. Andrew Cuomo will meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a whirlwind solidarity visit that will begin on Sunday.
Cuomo, a Democrat who has begun laying down markers for a possible presidential campaign in 2020, said the trip would offer “solidarity” with Jewish people amid a “disgusting … repugnant” rash of anti-Semitic vandalism and threats.
“Actions speak louder than words, especially in the political arena … What we want to say to the Jewish community in New York is I am as sincere about this as I can be and I am as aggressive about this as I can be — both as governor and as a private citizen,” Cuomo told reporters on Saturday outside the Park Avenue Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “The message this time is very important. There’s been a rash of anti-Semitism all across this state, all across this nation.”
Cuomo last visited Israel in 2014 during a flare-up in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. New York is home to the largest number of Jews outside of Israel, the governor said, and has a special connection to the Jewish state.
The trip will also double as a trade mission, the governor said — the second such overseas economic development trip that Cuomo promised during his second term. The governor is bringing Empire State Development president Howard Zemsky. He will meet with “automotive technology and venture capital firms to discuss economic development opportunities in New York State,” according to an administration itinerary.
The governor will also tour Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, have a “working lunch” with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and other business leaders and huddle with Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister for public security and strategic affairs, at Jerusalem’s Old City Police Headquarters.
Cuomo will also tour the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Western Wall in that city, and will meet with Netanyahu. During Saturday’s press conference in New York, Cuomo side-stepped a question about Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister.
“I’m not going to get into much politics when I see the prime minister,” Cuomo replied. “I’m going to discuss this issue, I want to discuss the connection between New York and Israel. We have a lot of joint ventures that are going on, a lot of economic development ventures and I want to talk about increasing those economic development ventures.”
Another reporter asked Cuomo if the trip had anything to do with presidential ambitions, and the governor repeated that he plans to seek a third term as governor in 2018.
“I want to be governor of the state of New York and I plan on running for re-election,” he said. “If I am lucky and work very hard I hope to do that. We have a lot of important projects underway and a lot of good work to finish.”
In addition to Zemsky, Cuomo will be accompanied by Allen Fagin of the Orthodox Union, Linda Mirels, a former chair of the UJA Federation as well as administration aides Melissa DeRosa, David Lobl, Aaron Kaplowitz, Michael Ceretto and Letizia Tagliafierro.
The governor’s team plans to leave Israel on Monday.