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Cuomo heads to Israel on economic and personal mission

Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media Wednesday before departing on a trip to Israel.
Governor Cuomo's office
Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to the media Wednesday before departing on a trip to Israel.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo is on his way to Israel to carry out what he said is an economic mission. But Cuomo said the trip also has a personal focus.

Cuomo said he'll meet with business leaders at Technion University about four key industries -- tech startups, innovations in drones and medical technology, and navigation devices that are being developed for uses like self-driving cars.

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority official is also on the trip to see if the navigation techniques can be used to replace the aging signal system on New York City's subways and on commuter rail lines.

The governor said Israel is a major trading partner with New York state, with New York exporting $5 billion worth of goods to Israel, and importing $8 billion worth of products. Cuomo said that's more than any other state.

But the governor said he has a personal reason for the trip as well: to show solidarity against the growing incidents of anti-Semitism in New York and in many places around the world.

"There has been a scourge of anti-Semitic activity in this country," Cuomo said. "I believe it is a symptom of the division that is being spread throughout this country, and the intolerance that is spreading throughout this country." 

Cuomo, who has two Jewish brothers-in-law and several Jewish nieces, said for him, it is personal. The governor is also bringing his three daughters on the trip.

"The Jewish community is part of our family," Cuomo said. "And part of our family has been offended. And my family is going to go to Israel to make the point that we stand in solidarity with them."

A reporter asked the governor about the politics of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been criticized for allying with Israel's political right. Cuomo said his trip is not a "political" one, and he does not want to get involved in the country's politics.

The governor did weigh in on a recent statement by Queens Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She accused the Trump administration of running "concentration camps" for immigrants along the United States' southern border, drawing a comparison to the Holocaust.

Cuomo said that analogy is "wholly inappropriate."

"To draw an equivalency suggests one does not understand what happened in the Holocaust," Cuomo said.

He said, however, that what is happening on the southern border is "horrendous" and a "human rights violation." 

In Tuesday's primary, Tiffany Caban -- a candidate for Queens district attorney supported by Ocasio-Cortez -- appears to have defeated Melinda Katz, the Democratic establishment candidate backed by Cuomo.

The governor blames the outcome on low voter turnout.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.