Gov. Christie’s high national profile adds element to Israel trip
Gov. Chris Christie expressed the hope that his April trip to Israel would yield both economic and diplomatic benefits for New Jersey, but the thirdyear governor also recognized that his growing national profile gave the trip added meaning. “Being prepared is never the wrong thing,” said Christie during a meeting with a small group of reporters from the Jewish media at Drumthwacket, the governor’s official residence in Princeton.
Christie, who has been mentioned as a possible vicepresidential candidate on the Romney ticket, said that as a growing voice in the Republican Party, he has an obligation to be educated on Middle Eastern issues. Christie spent four days on his official trip to Israel, and then spent three days with his family in Jordan as a guest of King Abdullah. He said that the Jordan trip was primarily for relaxation and came about as the result of a long-standing invitation from Abdullah, whom he had met at a dinner hosted by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“This was my first trip to Israel, and first foreign trip as governor,” said Christie. He went with his wife, three of his four children, his father, and an official delegation. While in Israel, he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres. He visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, toured Jerusalem, visited the Golan Heights, and took a helicopter tour of the West Bank.
“I think we really established a good relationship going forward,” Christie said of his meeting with Netanyahu. The two, who had a private dinner together, spoke about security and economic issues. The two also discussed the threat of terrorism. Christie prosecuted several high-profile terrorism cases as a U.S. Attorney prior to becoming governor.
Meeting the 89-year-old Shimon Peres was like “meeting a walking history book,” said Christie, who also spoke of his visit to Yad Vashem. He said that visiting Yad Vashem reinforced to him the value of New Jersey’s state-mandated Holocaust education program. He said that his children knew far more about the Holocaust than he realized they did.
The economic development part of the trip featured meetings with Israeli business leaders, including those at Teva Pharmaceuticals, and entrepreneurs. Christie said that there is a lot to learn from the Israeli style of innovation.
Christie said that his tour of Jerusalem, including visits to Christian holy sites, “further reinforced my view that Jerusalem has to stay under Israeli control.” He spoke of the freedoms afforded to all religious groups in Israel.
During a question-andanswer part of the press conference, Christie was asked why he thought Israel was perennially under attack in international forums. He said that there are still those who want to wipe Israel off the map and don’t recognize the right of Israel to exist. “These type of illinformed opinions die hard,” he said.
Christie’s tour of the Golan Heights as well as his helicopter tour of the West Bank “awakened” his appreciation for Israel’s security concerns. He said that when you see Israel’s “narrow waistline” firsthand as well as the proximity of Lebanon and Syria, you get a greater appreciation of the security situation Israel faces.
The governor said that he and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed the Syria situation. “My view is that a brutal dictatorship is under attack,” said Christie. He added, however, that he does not have access to the intelligence reports given to President Obama, and would not secondguess his decisions concerning the use of American force in Syria.
Asked about Iran, Christie said that the United States needs to be unequivocal that Iran should not be allowed to have a nuclear capability. He said that an Iranian nuclear capability would change the balance of power in the Middle East.
The governor was also asked why he did not visit with anyone from the Palestinian Authority during his trip, he said that it was “conscious decision, but not a political statement.” He said that this trip he wanted to focus on Israel.
One of the last questions asked during the press conference centered on what the governor thought of Israel’s cuisine. Christie smiled and said that the amount of food brought to him was extraordinary “and people felt insulted if you didn’t eat it.”
Christie closed his meeting with the Jewish media by saying that his trip “was extraordinary, and one I will never forget.” .