Ed Lee Went to Palestine, Met With Developers

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is in the Middle East this week, renewing San Francisco's sister-city relationship with the Israeli port city of Haifa, and paying a visit to Shimon Peres, the former Israeli head of state. 

The massive trip of over 20 people — including local lobbyists and city bureaucrats, including the general manager of the Recreation and Park Commission and a deputy director of the Arts Commission — has been in the works since 2013 and is being paid for by the Jewish Community Relations Council, an organization in the news not long ago for opposing the teaching of Arabic in local public schools.

But in a move sure to raise his profile among the city's hard-line leftists, Lee even made a sojourn to Palestine yesterday, where he paid a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah. He also visited with a prominent Palestinian citizen (who happens to be a major property developer). And this is the second recent trip to  Israel by a local elected official. 

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Lee left for Israel on Friday night and could be back in S.F. as soon as Friday, according to travel documents filed at the city's Ethics Commission. The trip cost $10,730, and includes stops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as well as Haifa, which Lee saw over the weekend.

Along with Lee on the trip is local lobbyist Sam Lauter, Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, and over 20 other folks, including Planning Commissioner Rodney Fong, and other prominent members of local society, including Anita Friedman, president of the Koret Foundation.

There are also some Israel die-hards on the trip: there's Roselyne Swig, who's a board member of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Council, who some see as a right-wing Zionist group who have slowed down such processes as the nuclear deal with Iran.

But this is not an AIPAC-funded trip. (The JCRC is generally seen as a more moderate organization.) That trip was in January — and that was on whose dime Supervisor Malia Cohen flew to Israel, where she met with Israeli officials (and did not go to the West Bank).

Why would AIPAC care to send a local elected official all the way to the Middle East? Cohen was sick on Monday and could not comment to SF Weekly.

Other elected officials, speaking on background, speculated that AIPAC likes to make “investments” in elected officials — which is to say, if Cohen ever ends up in Congress, AIPAC could then expect her to be a reliable vote for any pro-Israel policy.

This doesn't really seem to be Lee's bailiwick. He'd much rather meet with developers.

Not that Bashar Masri and his planned city of Rawabi aren't controversial. If you thought building in the Mission District was hard, check this out.

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