Chris Christie
Chris ChristieReuters

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on Sunday called for a more aggressive foreign policy that defends American values abroad, but also said he is concerned about the direction America is heading in, reports Fox News.

The comments by the Republican presidential contender were made in a keynote address Sunday at the Champions of Jewish Values International awards gala in New York, where he was likely courting possible Jewish votes.

"The rest of the world watches in desperation and hope that America will realize and act upon once again its indispensable place in the world. We must lead," said Christie.

He charged that America must represent the strongest military and economic power, but also "the strongest moral power for what is good and what is right in the world."

“We see Russian activism once again rearing its head in the world, we see an America that backed away from a commitment made by the president of the United States in Syria, we see a country, our country, permitting even a thought of a terrorist state like Iran having nuclear capability,” Christie was quoted by Fox News as having said.

“It's unthinkable that the America that has led in the way that it has always led this world would permit that to happen. Yet we are sitting in a world, we are watching the vacuum that the lack of American leadership has created being filled and it is almost never filled by virtue, it is almost always filled by evil.”

The appearance offered Christie a second chance to impress deep-pocketed Jewish donors after stumbling in a recent speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

In that speech, Christie referred to Judea and Samaria as “occupied territories”, sparking outrage in the crowd.

He later apologized to Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, explaining 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.”

Fox News noted that Adelson was featured in Sunday's event, as were Governor Rick Perry of Texas and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.

The gathering comes as donors begin to size up the crowded field of potential Republican presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 contest.

Christie did not talk about his own presidential prospects in a speech that offered aggressive rhetoric but few specifics. He didn't mention Israel, but insisted that America's leaders must send "clear and consistent signals" to those nations it supports and those it doesn't while promoting America's values.

"We need to stand once again loudly for these values," he said, according to Fox News. "And sometimes that's going to mean standing in some very messy, difficult places. Standing long and hard for those things that we believe in."

"We will either lead or disappoint. Those are the only two choices. Unfortunately, today, in my opinion, America is disappointing. But it's not too late," added Christie.

Christie 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.

The comments criticizing America’s foreign policy are not the first ones from a Republican in recent months. President Barack Obama has been widely criticized over his foreign policy, and that criticism has deepened in the wake of the crisis in Ukraine.

Sen. John McCain recently said that events in Ukraine are directly related to Obama's “feckless” policies.

Other Republican lawmakers have criticized Obama as well, saying his weak policy encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin to deploy troops to Ukraine.