New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he's bracing himself for a "sober environment" when he arrives in Israel Friday amid a recent surge in Palestinian attacks on Israelis.
His first trip to Israel as mayor comes at a "very sensitive moment," he told reporters Thursday, adding that he stands in solidarity with the Jewish state.
"I'm proud to be going at a moment when Israel is in need and . . . friends need to stand and be counted," the mayor said.
The highlight of de Blasio's three-day trip is his delivery of a keynote speech on anti-Semitism in the West. He will also visit with Jewish and Arab students from Christian and Muslim families who are enrolled in an intercultural school in Jerusalem.
He will meet with Israeli officials, but de Blasio said meeting with Palestinian officials amid the current tensions is "not appropriate." He did not elaborate.
The region needs peace "deeply," he said. "One of the ways we foster peace is through inclusion and our hopes have to be with the young people at this point."
De Blasio said he is not concerned for his personal safety while traveling in Israel and called the covering of costs for his trip by an Israeli businessman "absolutely appropriate, absolutely legal."