New York Mayor Bill de Blasio Meets With Counterparts In Israel Amid Escalating Violence In The Region Which Has Left 40 Palestinians And Seven Israelis Dead
New York mayor Bill de Blasio has kicked off a three-day trip to Israel by meeting with his Tel Aviv counterpart amid increasing violence in the troubled region.
In the last two weeks at least 40 Palestinians and seven Israelis have died during street clashes, including three Palestinians who were shot after attacking Israeli troops with knives.
De Blasio was pictured speaking with Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai early today, before attending an event sponsored by a mixed Israeli-Palestinian school.
De Blasio met with Huldai before attending an event sponsored by a mixed Israeli-Palestinian school during his first trip to Israel as New York mayor
Later in the day, he is planning to meet Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, and then go to speak with Israeli stabbing victims in a hospital.
De Blasio, who has described his trip as 'a solitary mission at a difficult time', was planning to visit the West Bank, but scuppered that part of his trip due to security concerns.
The New York mayor will stay in the region until Sunday, before flying back to the states.
He will not meet with any Palestinian officials as part of the $250,000 trip, which is being financed by Israeli entrepreneur Baruch Eliezer Gross.
Despite being approved by New York's Conflict of Interest Board, the donation has come in for some criticism, with the Center for Constitutional Rights writing an open letter to De Blasio, saying he is going to Israel 'with political blinders on'.
Ahead of the trip, de Blasio said the visit has 'taken on extra meaning now because of the crisis in Israel' and said it was 'very important to stand in solidarity with Israel.'
De Blasio will tomorrow meet with Jerusalem's mayor, Nir Barkat, and then go to a hospital where Israelis who were stabbed in the recent violence are being treated (pictured at the joint Palestinian-Israeli event)
The Democrat had planned to visit the West Bank, though that part of his trip was scuppered due to security concerns, and will not be meeting any Palestinian officials on his visit
A trip to Israel is a staple for New York mayors, who represent a large Jewish constituency. This is de Blasio's first visit as mayor, his fourth overall.
The violence, some of the worst in years, has erupted due in part to Palestinians' anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound.
Israel says it is keeping the status quo at the holy compound, which is also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical Jewish temples.
On Thursday night Palestinian activists set fire to Joseph's Temple, a revered holy site for both Jews and Muslims, which has been condemned by politicians on both side.
That attack came ahead of a 'Friday of revolution' called for by some Palestinians, prompting more clashes in which at least 48 people were injured.
At least 40 Palestinians have been killed along with seven Israelis, including this Palestinian activist shot dead by Israeli troops as he launched a frenzied knife attack
The violence, some of the worst in recent years, started two weeks ago after Palestinians accused Israelis of encroaching on the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem (pictured, Palestinian women chant anti-Israel slogans at the funeral of a 19-year-old shot dead by Israeli troops)
Peace talks between the two nations collapsed in 2014 over Israeli settlement-building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Palestinians seek for a state.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also angered Israel by reaching a unity deal with the Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
The last major confrontation was the Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2014, which left large sections of Gaza destroyed.
Around 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 Israelis, most of them soldiers, were killed.
The United States has stepped up efforts to try to restore calm to the region. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas to discuss ways to end the violence.