Gov. George Pataki came to the defense of a potential Democratic rival Thursday, saying it was “appropriate” for state Comptroller H. Carl McCall to visit West Bank settlements.
“I have gone to the West Bank, I do think it’s appropriate, and on the next trip if that opportunity presents itself I would have no hesitation at all,” Pataki told a gathering of Jewish leaders when asked about McCall’s plans by a reporter.
The leaders were gathered at a conference announcing the appointment of former Brooklyn City Councilman Herbert Berman as a special adviser to the governor on economic and Jewish issues.
The comptroller, who is vying with former U.S. Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor, leaves Sunday for a three-day visit to Israel organized by State of Israel Bonds. McCall said earlier this week he was reconsidering whether to visit the West Bank after supporters and others urged him not to do so.
At the Jewish Community Relations Council’s 25th anniversary dinner Wednesday night, McCall told The Jewish Week his Israel itinerary had been finalized but that he could not discuss it “for security reasons.”
Pataki has visited the Jewish state four times as governor, including on a bipartisan mission with McCall in 1998 promoting Israel-New York trade. During that trip, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert took the delegation to several communities on the city’s outskirts that are beyond the country’s pre-1967 boundaries.