Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was scheduled Wednesday to meet with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as part of his ongoing tour of the U.S. and his first official visit as a head of state. His trip came as the Israeli military launched shells into southern Lebanon Wednesday.
De Blasio's office announced the mayor would meet privately with Rivlin after squeezing in an appearance Wednesday on NBC's "Today Show," a day after the city was battered with what officials had predicted would be a historic blizzard. Rivlin was also scheduled to meet with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Thursday in Manhattan and visit the 9/11 Memorial Museum, according to the Associated Press.
Rivlin attended events this week at the United Nations in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Rivlin's robust welcome in New York has been contrasted by the Israeli media with the controversy over Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s upcoming planned speech in Congress in March. President Barack Obama has said he won't meet with Netanyahu during his Washington, D.C., trip because it could influence Israel's upcoming elections. Netanyahu will address Congress at the invitation of Republican lawmakers. Obama was not scheduled to meet with Rivlin this week.
Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu's Likud party, was elected Israel's president following a vote by members of the Knesset in June. Israel's president serves as the head of state and is not involved in policy decisions, according to the Guardian.
At least two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish U.N. peacekeeper were killed as Hezbollah militants exchanged fire with Israeli forces on the Lebanese border Wednesday. Hezbollah leaders said the attack was retribution for an Israeli airstrike that killed six fighters and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards general in the Syrian Golan Heights earlier this month, according to the BBC.
Both Christie and De Blasio have been staunch supporters of Israel.