NEW YORK – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the last minute scrapped a plan to join the many world leaders flying to Israel to attend the funeral of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Friday.
Cuomo cancelled his trip moments before takeoff at JFK to deal with a horrific NJ Transit train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Speaking to reporters before heading to the airport on Thursday, Cuomo, who hardly leaves the state for overseas travels, asserted that this is the right exception to represent the state of New York, home to more than 1.7 million Jews, in paying respect to a mutual friend, an Israeli icon.
“Many New Yorkers knew Shimon Peres; many more should have,” said Cuomo. “He was a great fan and friend to the State of New York. When you were in his presence, you felt that you were in the presence of a great man and a peaceful force. I don’t like to leave the state, but I think this is the right exception and I’ll be representing the state.”
The governor also noted that the Empire State is home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the world.
“The relationship with Israel is more important than ever before, because with what’s happening in the Middle East,” said Cuomo. “Israel is our friend, and if we have a friend in that region it is Israel, and we also have a very strong cultural bond with Israel. We have more Jewish people in this state than any other place on the globe besides Israel. I have Jewish brothers-in-law in my family like so many other New York families. So on a cultural level, political level and personal level I feel this is the appropriate thing to do.”
Writing in the New York Post on Wednesday, former Israeli Consul General in New York Alon Pinkas, highlighted Peres’ concern for the security of the people of New York. “At 10:45 a.m. on 9/11 — minutes after the North Tower of the World Trade Center had collapsed — New York’s cellphone service was almost nonexistent. Yet, as I walked up Third Avenue, my phone rang,” Pinkas recalled. “Peres was on the line. ‘You OK?’ he asked. ‘You know where Don Rumsfeld is? Talk to me.’ ‘Shimon,’ I answered, ‘I’m the consul general in New York. Rumsfeld runs the Pentagon. How the hell do I know where he is?’ Fine, Peres said. ‘These sh-ts hit New York! New York! Do you get that? I’m coming over.’ A week later, he did. Would you have gone to any other country that underwent something like this, I asked. No, he said.”
On Thursday, Gov. Cuomo issued a citation honoring the life of Peres and his legacy. “Home to more than 1.7 million Jews – the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the world – New York has always had a special relationship with Israel, and President Peres served as a tremendous ally in promoting and strengthening this bond,” the citation reads.
Shimon Peres by Jake Korn on Scribd