While there's been plenty of carping when the mayor goes out of town, his trip to Israel this weekend makes a lot of sense. What doesn't add up, though, is the way the trip is being paid for.

A little-known Israeli businessman – Baruch Gross – is ponying up the $20,000 to $25,000 to pay for de Blasio's trip along with four aides.

The city's Conflicts of Interest Board unwisely signed off on the agreement, noting that Gross is doing no business with the city, but leaving plenty of questions unanswered.

Do the mayor and Gross know each other? Does Gross or any of his friends ever want to do any business with the city? Who proposed this plan in the first place? And how is this different from a campaign contribution -- which would be capped at $4,950?

Even if Gross' motivations are entirely pure, the deal puts both the mayor and Gross in an awkward spot because someone is doing City Hall a favor. To avoid any accusations of influence-peddling, we wouldn't let Gross buy a dinner for reporters at NY1, let alone send them to Israel on his dime.

It would be a far wiser idea to either use public money – if the trip is indeed to benefit the city – or to rely on The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, a non-profit group dedicated to various City Hall initiatives.

Both the mayor and the city's Conflicts of Interest Board should know better.


Bob Hardt