Christie to speak at Jewish event, weeks after 'occupied territories' comment
May 16th, 2014
05:58 PM ET
7 months ago

Christie to speak at Jewish event, weeks after 'occupied territories' comment

(CNN) - If Chris Christie lost favor with some in the Jewish community with what he called a misstatement about Israel earlier this year, then the New Jersey governor may have a chance to make up for it.

The Republican, who's thinking about running for president in 2016, will deliver the keynote address Sunday at an awards gala hosted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach's "This World: Values Network" in New York.

The event will feature an array of politicians and luminaries who fall all across the political spectrum.

Case in point: Actor and liberal activist Sean Penn will be recognized for his humanitarian work, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry will take the same stage to present an award to Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire and mega donor to GOP candidates.

But the point of the dinner is to put politics aside for one night and focus instead on Jewish values, said Boteach.

"Our entire dinner is marked by the orchestration of two completely different wings of American society into one celebratory evening," he said.

Boteach said Christie was invited to speak because of his ability to transcend politics during Superstorm Sandy. The governor was panned by many Republicans for embracing President Barack Obama when he visited New Jersey after the 2012 storm heavily damaged the state.

Christie, Perry to share table at event

Christie, a leading Republican figure, was highly complimentary of the President just days before the November election.

Some Mitt Romney supporters blamed Christie for making Obama look more presidential, and thus helping him win re-election in a tight race. Romney, however, has repeatedly said he doesn't fault Christie or hold any sort of grudge.

Christie rattled a different audience in March when he used the controversial term "occupied territories" in an address to a Republican Jewish Coalition event.

"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," he said.

Many Israelis, however, don't consider the territories to be occupied, but say Israel has a legitimate claim to the land. Palestinians, along with the United Nations, consider the West Bank to be Palestinian, but under military occupation by Israel.

In a private meeting later with Adelson, the GOP donor, Christie said he "misspoke" and that he didn't believe the West Bank is "occupied" by Israel.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was at the speech and blasted Christie in an opinion piece for the Jerusalem Post, saying Christie never sincerely apologized.

"It was intense negative media attention that caused him to claim he misspoke, not his genuine belief or appreciation for the criticism," Klein argued.

Klein later told U.S. News and World Report he was thinking about boycotting the upcoming dinner to protest Christie's appearance.

But Boteach said Klein has RSVP'd for the event.

Klein did not immediately return a request for comment.

Boteach said he's "sick and tired of people in our community harping on a single comment and drawing conclusions."

"It's not Jewish," he said. "That's fanaticism."

Boteach argued that the point of the event Sunday is to highlight Jewish values, and "one of the Jewish values is fairness."

"You have to look at the total body of a person's work," he said, calling Christie a "friend" to Israel. "If we are to judge Governor Christie, we can speak to him as a community…If we have disagreements, then we should speak to him in a spirit of cordiality."

"We are not honoring perfect people," he added. "We are honoring people who try to contribute to the world's goodness amid its shortcomings."

CNN's Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: Chris Christie • New Jersey
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. J Anthony

    We all have our flaws.

    May 16, 2014 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  2. Harry Pother

    zionist decides usa president

    May 16, 2014 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  3. James Malenfant

    What an interesting event. They are celebrating Jewish values by honoring celebrities and giving a billionaire an award. All wrapped in an evening with Governor Christie. I wonder if Christie brought blank checks? Why would Rick Perry be there? It all sounds very scary to me. We just don't have groups like this in Arizona.

    May 17, 2014 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  4. Thomas

    "This World: Values Network"
    Sheldon Adelson , it's all about the cash !

    May 17, 2014 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  5. Rick McDaniel

    There is no turning back the clock of time to reinstate a world that is long since changed.

    Just as the UK cannot try to reclaim America, Israel cannot be stripped of the lands it acquired in the battles of war.

    Why Americans cannot understand the obvious, is beyond me.

    May 17, 2014 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
  6. What's in that Tea Anyway?

    The round guy is pandering for votes ? Who ever would have guessed that? Comes with some $'s too??? really???

    May 17, 2014 10:21 am at 10:21 am |