April 19, 2024
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A Christie-en Slip

Many of us are familiar with the old adage “there is a time and a place.” For Chris Christie, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s spring event was neither the time nor the place to utter the reviled term “occupied territories.”

The RJC’s Las Vegas event was an opportunity for the GOP presidential hopefuls to speak to die-hard Jewish Republicans about the issues relating to Israel and the greater Jewish community. Governor Christie made the trek out west, where he joined Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, each of whom was hoping to win over the crowd and garner major Jewish support for their possible presidential runs.

But the real story was the Sheldon Adelson sweepstakes. After spending more than $90 million during the 2012 presidential election, Adelson’s support and the considerable campaign contributions that come with it are very much sought after. Every Republican with presidential aspirations dreams of winning this coveted endorsement.

Interestingly, Sheldon Adelson was not even present during Governor Walker’s address to the RJC, but he caused a stir when he entered the room as Christie took to the podium and sat down front and center in order to listen to what the governor from New Jersey had to say.

Everything was going well for Chris Christie until he remarked that he had taken a helicopter ride during his 2012 trip to Israel “from the occupied territories.”

The crowd in attendance knew immediately that Christie had goofed. The term “occupied territories,” which typically refers to Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem, is generally used by Israel’s detractors to protest what they perceive to be Israel’s “illegal occupation” of these areas.

Perhaps understanding the magnitude of his mistake after the fact, Christie met privately with Sheldon Adelson to apologize for his faux pas and to reiterate to the casino magnate that his support for Israel is rock solid. The bottom line is that this was a monumental error on the part of Chris Christie. He used a term that people perceive to be anti-Israel in front of an audience of people who are strongly pro-Israel.

Because of Christie’s major gaffe, there reportedly are Republican donors and people in the pro-Israel community who are suddenly questioning his stance on Israel and wondering about his true feelings towards the Jewish State.

Personally, I think all that talk is ludicrous. Yes, Chris Christie said the wrong thing. But does that slip-up call into question his bona fide feelings about Israel and the Jewish community? Absolutely not.

People are blowing this whole situation out of proportion. In my mind, all this is a guy who has no foreign policy experience who suddenly finds himself on the national stage. If Chris Christie does ultimately throw his hat into the ring and decides to run for president, I assure you that there will inevitably be situations where his lack of familiarity with foreign policy matters will lead him to say the wrong thing. This RJC incident does not prove that Chris Christie is anti-Israel. What it does prove is that Chris Christie needs to be better prepared.

I think that Christie would be best served by surrounding himself with knowledgeable people who can better educate him as to the numerous nuances associated with various religious groups and faith communities. If he is going to run for president, he needs to know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.

As far as Israel goes, if Governor Christie wants to give me a call, I would be happy to help work with him on honing his message regarding Israel and the Jewish community. When it comes to Israel, what Chris Christie needs is simply a refinement of his message, not a complete overhaul.

This is a man who has a relatively good relationship with New Jersey’s Jewish community. He is a proponent of school choice measures that would aid the non-public school community, including yeshivas. His high-profile trip to Israel several years ago got him a lot of good press and engendered warm feelings within the Jewish community. I was at the OU Advocacy’s New Jersey Legislative Breakfast this past October where the crowd of about 600 people rose to their feet and gave Governor Christie a thunderous ovation when he was introduced.

I think that at this stage, calling into question Chris Christie’s feelings towards Israel based on a slip of the tongue or a lack of knowledge on his part is wholly unfair. I am willing to give Christie a pass on this one. The real cause for concern, in my mind, would be if he does it again. Everyone is entitled to make a mistake from time to time. Just make sure that the same mistake does not get made twice.

N. Aaron Troodler is an attorney and principal of Paul Revere Public Relations, a public relations and political consulting firm. Visit him on the Web at TroodlersTake.blogspot.com, www.PaulReverePR.co, or www.JewishWorldPR.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @troodler

By N. Aaron Troodler, Esq.

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