New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apologized to Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson over the weekend after he referred to Judea and Samaria as “occupied territories” during a speech he gave Saturday night in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), Politico reported.
In his speech, Christie invoked a 2012 trip he and his family took to Israel and said, “I 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.”
The story was obviously intended to forge common cause with Adelson and the several hundred donors to the Republican Jewish Coalition to which Christie was speaking, but his use of the term “occupied territories” set off murmurs in the crowd, according to Politico.
Many media outlets use “occupied territories” to refer to the areas of eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria that Israel liberated during the 1967 Six Day War and which the Palestinian Authority (PA) claims for a future state.
Not long after his speech, according to Politico, Christie met with Adelson privately in his office, which hosted the RJC meeting.
A source told the website that Christie “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not meant to be a statement of policy.”
Instead, the source said, Christie made clear “that he misspoke when he referred to the ‘occupied territories.’ And he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”
Adelson accepted Christie’s explanation, the source said.
Before the meeting, according to the report, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, had confronted Christie about his use of the term, telling Politico he explained to the New Jersey governor that “at minimum you should call it disputed territories.”
Besides the comment, Christie largely impressed the crowd Saturday night with tales of his own trips to Israel.
He also criticized the Obama administration’s approach to foreign policy, which the crowd distrusts deeply.
“We cannot have a world where our friends are unsure of whether we’ll be with them, and our enemies are unsure of whether we’ll be against them,” Christie said, according to Politico.
Christie recounted meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and being “extraordinarily taken by his strength and resolve.”
Christie was one of three Republican governors to speak to the crowd Saturday night. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. John Kasich of Ohio also spoke to the crowd, offering a strong defense of Israel, too.
The three governors are considered likely contenders for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 and party stalwarts hope their attendance this weekend will help convince Adelson to support an established candidate in the next presidential election, according to Politico.
Christie is considered pro-Israel and he visited the Jewish state in 2012 for a four-day trip intended to “strengthen New Jersey’s economic and diplomatic relationships with foreign nations.”
During the 2012 election campaign, Christie’s name came up as one of the leading candidates to run for vice president along with Mitt Romney, who ultimately ran with Paul Ryan.
Adelson, who is a close friend of Netanyahu and who owns the Israel Hayom daily newspaper, originally supported Newt Gingrich in the 2012 campaign. After Gingrich dropped out of the race, Adelson backed Romney and was the biggest donor to his presidential campaign.