De Blasio says defending Israel is natural for a New York mayor

(JTA) — New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said defending Israel was natural for the mayor of a city with a large Jewish population.

The newly elected mayor, speaking Wednesday on MSNBC, defended himself from criticism following the leaking of audio from a private meeting he had in January with board members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

“I think Israel stands as a pluralistic society that deserves respect, and it’s been under attack,” de Blasio said in remarks transcribed by the Forward.

“And I think it is our job to support it,” he said. “So that’s me speaking as the mayor of a city that is the closest to Israel of any city on earth and has one of the largest Jewish populations of any city on earth. And I think it is a fair role for me to play.”

De Blasio, a Democrat who is the first pronouncedly leftist New York mayor in decades, had come under fire from some on the left who said his focus should be New York City and who said the policies AIPAC and Israel’s government advanced were repressive.

In the AIPAC meeting, de Blasio had said to applause, “Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel.”

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