New Jersey Governor Chris Christie visited Jerusalem on Monday as part of his first overseas trip since taking office. He and his family are also expected to visit Tel Aviv, Tiberius and the Golan Heights during the week long trip.
During his brief visit to Jerusalem, he was given a personal tour of the Western Wall by Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel. At the Western Wall, tourists stopped to shake his hand and pose for pictures. Christie was wearing a yarmulke with the word “governor”, which was a gift from the mayor of Lakewood, New Jersey. He said “It’s been extraordinarily powerful to walk on Holy Week in the same places that Jesus Christ walked”.
Earlier in the day, Christie met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss “regional issues, including Iran’s disputed nuclear program and expanding trade between Israel and New Jersey.” Later on Monday, both men will have a private dinner with their wives.
Later in the week, Christie will meet with President Shimon Peres and will make an excursion to Jordan to visit King Abdullah II. Christie also plans to visit Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, which is considering expanding to New Jersey.
Christie commented on the similarities between Israel and New Jersey such as the land area and significant high-tech sectors. He will also participate in a business round-table and visit a school.
Christie denied speculation that he is a vice presidential candidate for the Republican presidential nominee or that he is trying to “build foreign policy credentials” for a 2016 Presidential campaign, saying “Anything I do fuels speculation for a future bid, I am here because this is a place of enormous significance in the world.”
He is quoted as saying last week, “… I really believe that it’s incumbent upon a New Jersey governor to have a great… understanding and relationship with Israel given the makeup of our state, and I’m also somebody who wants to grow and expand my own mind and my own experiences, and that’ll make me a better leader.”
Christie met in private with Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, last year and spoke in February 2012 at an AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) dinner, where he said “…having America stand with Israel side by side, shoulder to shoulder, is one of the great responsibilities, and one of the great honors of the 21st century. We need to stand for it loudly and clearly today.”
His trip is funded by Choose NJ, a pro-economic development organization funded by major corporations and the Republican Jewish Coalition, a Jewish organization dedicated to supporting Republican politicians.