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NYC mayor to meet with Israeli protest leaders ahead of Netanyahu sit-down

Eric Adams’ interaction with a diverse cross-section of Israeli society showcases his decades-long backing of Israel, said one Jewish leader

On the first day of his three-day visit to Israel, New York City Mayor Eric Adams engaged in a range of activities that reflected a carefully strategized approach amid a political crisis within Israel. After arriving on Monday, he spoke about his faith and enjoyed “a good Israeli salad” with interfaith leaders, showcased his drumming skills with nightlife-goers at the renowned Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, and paid a visit to a hospitalized Hasidic rabbi of an insular anti-Zionist sect. 

On Tuesday Adams is scheduled to meet with leaders of the protest movement against the judicial overhaul as well as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 

Netanyahu faced fierce criticism from American Jewish leaders for refusing to engage in meaningful negotiations to reach broad consensus on a package of judicial overhaul measures that would weaken the independence of the Israeli Supreme Court, as well as legislation that will bolster Netanyahu and his cadre of ministers bent on annexing occupied territories and elevating religious over civil rights. In recent weeks, thousands of Israeli air force reservists have stopped reporting for duty and threatened not to show up for training sessions.

The mayor’s office said the purpose of the trip — sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York — is to “learn about Israeli technology, and discuss combined efforts to combat antisemitism.”

NYC Mayor Eric Adams visits the Toldos Avraham Yitchok Rebbe, of an insular, fervently anti-Zionist Hasidic sect in Jerusalem, on Aug. 21, 2023. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

As mayor of the city with the largest Jewish population outside of Israel, Adams has “seamlessly” prioritized interacting with a diverse cross-section of Israeli society in his meetings that “showcase his decades-long support of Israel,” said David Greenfield, CEO of the Met Council in New York, who joined the mayor’s delegation. “He seems to intuitively get it.”

The mayor’s spokesperson said City Hall “proactively reached out” to request a meeting with the protest leaders, which will take place Tuesday morning, hours before the meeting with Netanyahu. “Our goal is to hear from as many diverse voices while we’re here,” Fabien Levy, deputy mayor for communications, said. 

The progressive New York Jewish Agenda group urged Adams last week to engage with the protest leaders as a gesture of solidarity to a movement “so many New Yorkers support.” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who led a congressional delegation to Israel sponsored by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this month, rebuffed a similar call.

Shany Granot-Lubaton, a leader of the protest movement in New York, welcomed Adams’ move as “the right thing” to do. “New York City is a symbol of liberty and democracy,” she said. “This represents the values that New York City is proud of.” Granot-Lubaton said the group expects all American officials to meet with protest leaders on their visits to Israel. 

Greenfield said the mayor’s approach is “an impressive feat for someone who’s never held federal office and will give even the most seasoned Middle East diplomats a run for their money.” 

Tuesday’s scheduled events also include a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and a prayer at the Western Wall. Adams will also meet with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, and Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, among other lawmakers and business leaders, on the trip.

Adams told a New York Times reporter that Israel is on his shortlist of places for retirement. “I love Senegal, I love Nigeria, I love Israel, and I have a few more I want to keep secret so the press won’t be able to find me when I retire,” he said.

Updated on 08-22:  In a virtual press briefing on Tuesday, Adams said the judicial overhaul also came up in his meeting with Netanyahu. He maintained that the purpose of his meeting with the protesters was to learn about the movement. “Some of my Jewish constituents will ask me questions and I want to be able to share what my conversations were,” he said.

“I didn’t weigh in,” Adams added. “As I’ve stated, I think the people of Israel will determine their destiny. But it was important for me to meet with both sides.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the date of the mayor’s meeting with Netanyahu. It is planned for Tuesday, not Wednesday.

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