New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used some concerning language while speaking at a Republican Jewish Coalition meeting this weekend, referring to Israeli land upon which Palestinians reside as “occupied territories.”
According to Politico, Christie apologized to Republican donor Sheldon Adelson for using the charged term during a speech this weekend in Las Vegas. Christie was describing his trip to Israel in attempting to highlight his foreign policy experience, telling those listening that he “took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.”
Politico‘s Ken Vogel writes that the comment triggered “murmurs” in those listening. Allies of Israel at the meeting later explained to Christie that the term was inappropriate and implied some illegitimacy in Israel’s having a presence in those areas, including the West Bank.
Christie, according to the report, apologized to Adelson personally for use of the inappropriate term and “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not meant to be a statement of policy” and that he simply “misspoke.” Christie has depicted himself consistently as a strong ally of Israel, even though his role as governor of New Jersey limits his abilities on the foreign policy front.
The meeting at which Christie made the comments featured a number of prominent Republicans, including three other presidential hopefuls according to NBC News: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. During his speech, Governor Christie emphasized the importance of Republicans working together to win elections in 2014 and 2016. “It’s time for us as a party to stop killing each other,” he told the crowd, joking that if Republicans wanted to continue having arguments that led nowhere, “we could just form a university.”
While the governor has not often left New Jersey for foreign policy or trade visits abroad, Christie notably visited Israel in 2012, his first overseas trip in a public capacity. Christie met with Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu during that meeting, telling the leader that “there was no question” where his first overseas trip as governor would be.