ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos and other legislative leaders said Sunday they will travel to Israel this week as part of a unity trip to support the country amid the latest violence in the Middle East.
"Friends stand together in times of crisis, and I am proud to lead this bipartisan delegation to Israel to reaffirm our friendship and support," Cuomo said Sunday night. "New York has always had a special relationship with Israel. As Hamas and other terrorist organizations continue to threaten Israel, now is the time to deliver that message of solidarity in person."
A Cuomo aide said the cost of the trip and whether it would be paid for by state money or campaign funds wasn't yet determined.
The announcement came as a statewide poll showed Cuomo's popularity dropped, apparently as a result of the ongoing Moreland Commission controversy.
Cuomo and his top aide, Lawrence Schwartz, were accused in media reports of inappropriately interfering with the corruption commission as it sought to investigate allies of the governor. Cuomo said his administration provided advice the commission could take or ignore. Although the commission's work focused on the legislature, some subpoenas of Cuomo campaign donors and allies eventually were served.
The legislature is also up for elections this fall.
The Democrat, who is seeking re-election, will travel Tuesday for the two-day trip with Skelos (R-Rockville Centre); Howard S. Maier, chairman emeritus of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County; Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan); and Senate co-leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx). Also going are members of Cuomo's family, including his former brother-in-law, Kenneth Cole of Kenneth Cole Productions; Neil Coal of the Iconix Brand Group; and Mortimer B. Zuckerman, who is publisher of the New York Daily News and editor-in-chief of U.S. News and World Report.
"During this important moment in history, it is incumbent upon New York to reaffirm its strong and unconditional support for Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas-led attacks and to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect their people from the brutal tactics of homicide bombers," Skelos said in a statement.
"As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, the State of Israel is not only personally sacred to me but a beacon for the values and rights inherent in a democracy, which I hold dear," Klein said.
"As a lifetime supporter of Israel, I cannot overstate the importance of this trip," said Silver, who makes frequent trips to the country.
Cuomo's Republican opponent, Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday on the governor's trip. "We are pleased that the Governor has accepted our invitation to visit Israel at this critical time, expressing friendship and solidarity with the people of Israel," Consul General of Israel in New York Ido Aharoni said in a statement provided by Cuomo. "I look forward to greeting Governor Cuomo and his entire delegation in Israel."
Israel and the militant group Hamas on Sunday agreed to another three-day truce to end a month of combat in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.
Cuomo had a 54 percent-23 percent lead over Astorino in an Aug. 5 Wall Street Journal-Marist poll. A month before, Cuomo led 59 percent-24 percent.