De Blasio praises Israel at closed-door AIPAC event

Bill de Blasio. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Mayor Bill de Blasio delivered an impassioned pro-Israel speech during a private event hosted by a major Israel lobbying group on Thursday evening, according to an audio recording of the speech obtained by Capital.

"There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel, but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth, and that's something we can say proudly," de Blasio told a gathering of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at the Hilton in Manhattan.

"There is no deeper connection across boundaries than this connection we share," the new mayor continued, referring to Israel and New York City, which is home to one of the world's largest Jewish populations.

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The speech was not included on de Blasio's public schedule, and a Capital reporter who attempted to report on the event was escorted by event security from the third floor to the lobby.

De Blasio made no mention of his usual stump-speech themes, like income inequality, expanding paid sick leave and hiking taxes on the wealthy for universal pre-kindergarten.

Instead he focused entirely on the city's allegiance with Israel and the difficulties faced by the nation, eliciting several rounds of applause from the audience.

Two attendees even joked that he never once used the word "progressive," a mainstay in most of his public speeches.

De Blasio referenced three trips he has taken to the country, including one with wife, Chirlane McCray, and 16-year-old son, Dante. McCray was not in attendance for his remarks at AIPAC.

The mayor also offered a rare and enthusiastic endorsement of his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, for establishing the Applied Sciences Center on Roosevelt Island, which was built in partnership between Cornell and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

"I want to commend my predecessor Michael Bloomberg for what he achieved with the Applied Sciences Center," de Blasio said.

He concluded the closed-door event with an open invitation to the powerful, politically-connected organization.

"City Hall will always be open to AIPAC," he said. "When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I'll answer it happily 'cause that's my job."

--Additional reporting by Azi Paybarah