New York Mayor Eric Adams meets with Netanyahu, protest leaders in Israel

Al-Jazeera  /  August 22, 2023

Visiting Israel has become a tradition for mayors of New York City, home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an official visit to Israel — a tradition among the United States city’s mayors.

But as he continues his three-day tour, Adams faces pressure to both signal support and acknowledge the backlash to Netanyahu’s far-right government.

 “I am aware that my trip comes at a pivotal moment for Israel,” Adams wrote in a column for The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “Democracy is never easy, and it is only by confronting our differences that we can emerge stronger.”

Tuesday marked the second day of Adams’s visit — his first as mayor and third overall — and he began by meeting with protest leaders, though his team did not disclose who they might be or where the gathering took place.

Adams later posted a photo of the meeting, calling it an “honest conversation” with “numerous issues at play”.

Israel has seen a widespread backlash to a judicial reform package that would limit the Supreme Court’s ability to review legislation and grant the government greater authority over the appointment of judges.

Critics have claimed the reforms are a threat to democracy. In recent months, tens of thousands of people have crammed the streets of cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to protest the changes.

Adams did not comment directly on the controversy, and later in the afternoon, he had a private meeting with Netanyahu.

“The people of Israel will make the determination on how they want to move forward,” Adams told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “I have lots of challenges in my city, and I wouldn’t want someone to come in and interfere with how I’m running things.”

Adams also courted controversy by meeting with Israel Ganz, who leads the Binyamin Regional Council, which governs dozens of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Those settlements are considered illegal under international law, and the United Nations has condemned their expansion in recent months.

“Israel’s persistent expansion of its settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, deepens humanitarian needs, significantly fuels violence, increases the risk of confrontation, further entrenches the occupation and undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement in June.

The statement underscored that the continued construction was a “flagrant violation of international law”.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have also accused Israel of committing crimes of apartheid against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Adams told The Associated Press he did not speak with Netanyahu about the settlements but kept the focus on fostering collaboration and confronting anti-Semitism.

An April report from the Anti-Defamation League found that, in 2022, acts of anti-Semitism rose in the US by more than 35 percent over the previous year. That trend was reflected in major US cities like New York, which saw a 39 percent increase, for a total of 580 anti-Semitic incidents in 2022.

Adams’s trip included a stop at the Holocaust remembrance site Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, where he laid a wreath at the memorial.

“When you visit the hallowed grounds of [Yad Vashem], you don’t just say ‘never again’. You commit to living those two words,” he wrote afterwards on social media.

New York City has the largest Jewish population outside of Israel. Since Israel’s creation in 1948 — which coincided with the mass Palestinian displacement known as the Nabka or “catastrophe” in Arabic — New York mayors have routinely visited the country to foster ties.

Israel enjoys strong bipartisan support in the US and the country is the “largest cumulative recipient of US foreign assistance since World War II”, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Adams, a centrist Democrat, highlighted that ongoing relationship in his column on Tuesday. “New York City and Israel share an unbreakable bond,” he wrote.



 New York City Mayor Eric Adams to meet Netanyahu during Israel visit

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  August 21, 2023

The trip comes during a tumultuous time in Israel and has drawn criticism from rights groups in US.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams will be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after travelling to Israel on Monday for a three-day visit to emphasize his close connection with the Jewish community.

In a statement Monday, Adams’ office said he planned to “learn about Israeli technology and discuss combined efforts to combat antisemitism”.

“Eric Adams has publicly stated that one of his main goals in travelling to apartheid Israel is to learn more about the regime’s high-tech industry under the guise of improving public safety,” Sandra Tamari, the executive director at the Adalah Justice Project, told Middle East Eye.

“But the reality is that Israel’s tech industry is rooted in violence, producing technology that is infamously used to surveil, control, and kill Palestinians under Israeli military occupation.

“The mayor has no business bringing back these deadly technologies to New York City.”

New York City has the largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel.

His visit began on Monday with a meeting with Moshe Leon, Jerusalem’s mayor. Adams is also expected to meet with Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid during his time there.

There were no apparent or disclosed plans that he would be visiting the West Bank or meeting with Palestinian leaders. 

This is Adams’ first official trip to Israel since taking office last year. He has visited Israel two times in the past and once said that he wants to retire in the occupied Golan Heights.

“I am going to try to find a plot of land so it can be my retirement place,” Adams told Mishpacha magazine in 2021. 

“I love the people of Israel, the food, the culture, the dance, everything about Israel.”

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court revoked the appointment of Aryeh Deri, a leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, from serving in Netanyahu’s government on the grounds that it was “extremely unreasonable”.

On Saturday, Tel Aviv saw a massive turnout of Israelis protesting against the government’s contentious plans to overhaul the judiciary.

Last month, the Israeli parliament voted to limit the so-called “reasonableness” law. The legislation would prevent the Supreme Court from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are “unreasonable”.

Ever since the introduction of these reform proposals in January, weekly demonstrations have drawn tens of thousands of Israelis, making the largest protest movement in the nation’s history.

Although multiple cities have witnessed these demonstrations, Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial heart, remains the focal point. Every Saturday, crowds gather to voice their dissent against Netanyahu’s administration.

‘Outrageous and shameful’

Beth Miller, the political director of Jewish Voice for Peace Action, told MEE that the trip is “outrageous and shameful”.

“Instead of staying in New York to address the raging housing crisis and otherwise support the people he was elected to serve, Mayor Adams is flying to Israel to ‘strengthen’ ties with an extremist and racist government,” Miller said.

“Adams does not even pretend to care about the Palestinian families and communities that are under daily attack from Israeli soldiers and settlers, the Palestinian homes and schools being destroyed by the Israeli government, or the 41 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces this year alone.”

The mayor is travelling with David Greenfield, who is the executive director of the Met Council, a prominent Jewish non-profit based in New York. The trip is sponsored and paid for by the UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, The New York Times reported

Ahmad Abuznaid, the executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, told MEE that Adams has a lot to do in New York. 

“Mayor Eric Adams has a long list of duties and responsibilities as mayor. He’s leaving those behind in order to deepen complicity with an apartheid state whose ministers have proudly labelled themselves fascists and made calls for wiping out entire Palestinian towns. With alliances like those, who needs enemies?”

Earlier in the month, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries visited Israel alongside fellow House Democrats. 

His meeting with Netanyahu drew criticism from those backing pro-democracy protests.

In 2015, then-New York City mayor Bill de Blasio visited Israel. He said he wanted to meet with Palestinians but then cancelled his plans, citing security issues.