Cory Booker, Eying N.J. Senate Run, Banks on Long and Deep Jewish Ties

Newark Mayor Has Emotional Bond With People and Faith

Future Leaders: Cory Booker playfully lifts Rabbi Shmuley Boteach during a year the Rhodes Scholar spent at Oxford University in England.
courtesy of shmuley boteach
Future Leaders: Cory Booker playfully lifts Rabbi Shmuley Boteach during a year the Rhodes Scholar spent at Oxford University in England.

By Seth Berkman

Published June 06, 2013.
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Jews aside, Booker has long cultivated support among leaders of the financial services industry. Even back in 2002, during Booker’s first mayoral campaign, among his biggest contributors were members of Bain Capital, the private equity firm.

It is perhaps in part because of this that Booker has at times been conspicuously resistant to rhetoric about the “1%” popular among some other Democrats. Last year, while appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as a surrogate for the re-election campaign of President Obama, Booker strongly criticized his own man for attacking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s role at Bain Capital — a stance Booker soon felt constrained to walk back.

For all his interactions with Jews, Booker has rarely addressed publicly issues such as Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, its policies toward the Palestinians, and American and Israeli policies related to Iran and its nuclear program. He told the Forward the world cannot allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, as it would “be deeply de-stabilizing to the region and has the potential to create an arms race in the Middle East,” and that he supported Israel’s right to defend itself, “in the face of this threat.”

He added that economic sanctions against Iran have undeniably had an impact and there is still time for negotiations.

On the Palestinian issue, Booker said it was “undeniable that under the status quo, the Palestinian people are suffering.” But, he said, Israel faces threats that no other country faces, and “the first responsibility that Israeli leaders have to their citizens is ensuring their security.” Booker said he wants both sides to address their concerns at a negotiating table and that the United States must work to facilitate such talks.

“Real security for Israel will only come with an enduring peace, and I believe that an enduring peace can only come from a two-state solution, with a Jewish State of Israel existing in peace alongside a Palestinian state,” Booker said. He added that a Palestinian state, “must not be a vehicle for the launching of attacks against Israel.”

Despite uncontested achievements, Booker’s tenure as mayor has not been without its criticisms. Last December, The New York Times reported on its front page that many residents were dismayed over the mayor’s relentless pursuit of a high profile nationally while many issues in the city remained unfixed. Critics said Booker spent an increasing amount of time outside Newark and had lost his focus on local issues.

Booker disputed the story as factually wrong. He also said that it excluded crucial data on Newark’s progress during his tenure.

Booker told the Forward that next year’s city budget, which he will unveil at the end of June, will be balanced “for the first time in years.”


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