At a Republican Jewish Coalition event held over the weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, many of the party’s potential contenders for the top of the ticket in 2016 were on display.
Florida’s Governor Jeb Bush paid a visit, Ohio Governor John Kasich was there, as was Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. But there was plenty of buzz around someone who, just a few months ago, would have certainly been considered one of the leading contenders for political and financial backing from the high rollers in the crowd.
Chris Christie came in to this year’s RJC spring leadership meeting with a bit of tarnish on his previously teflon siding. The scandal known as “Bridgegate,” in which members of his inner circle were discovered to have inflicted serious damage on Fort Lee, New Jersey’s (Democratic) mayor for not backing Christie in the election. The revelation that traffic onto the George Washington Bridge was purposefully jammed with unnecessary lane closures just to spite the mayor, led to weeks of humiliation and a shadow over Christie’s hopes for a bigger political future.
Nonetheless, Christie’s gregariousness seemed to smooth over lingering concerns. Until the Big Gaffe.
Christie was describing a 2012 trip he took to Israel, an obvious topic of interest to the Jewish crowd.
“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,” Christie said.
That’s right. In just about any other setting, no one would have blinked, but Christie was speaking at a Republican Jewish Coalition event. And one of America’s biggest donors to Zionist causes, the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, was present.
Of course, the territories to which Christie was referring are not “occupied,” no matter how often and how many people insist they are. The area properly known as Judea and Samaria may legitimately be referred to as “disputed territories,” but there can be no occupation, under international law, for several reasons, the most prominent of which is that there was no sovereign nation in control of the land when Israel conquered it in a defensive war against Jordan during the 1967 War.
According to several reports there was a serious intake of breath when Christie uttered the words “occupied territories.”
An aide to Adelson told CNN that Christie explained that he “misspoke,” when he used the term, and that he “didn’t believe” the land is “occupied by Israel.”
CNN reported that a senior member of Adelson’s company said his boss was “satisfied” with Christie’s explanation.