Christie's 'Occupied Territories' Comments Irritate GOP Mega-Donor, So Christie Apologizes
While basking in the glow of his self-exoneration over the Bridgegate scandal, Chris Christie stepped into more trouble on Saturday while trying to court a GOP mega-donor in Las Vegas. In a speech to the Jewish Coalition, Christie spoke of “the occupied territories,” a reference to the regions of Jordan, Syria and Egypt that Israel seized in 1967. But that term — which is generally non-controversial to everyone but the Israeli government and very conservative Zionists — upset the donor in question, and the New Jersey Governor was subsequently compelled to apologize.
“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 Saturday, referencing a 2012 he made to Israel.
The term “occupied territories” refers to the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and areas of the Golan Heights, all of which have substantial Palestinian populations but are largely or entirely under Israeli control. It’s accepted as legitimate description of reality by the United Nations Security Council, the UN General Assembly, the International Court of Justice, and just about every country on Earth other than Israel.
But casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who spent tens of millions of dollars attempting to elevate Newt Gingrich the presidency in 2012, was displeased with Christie’s use of the term, and Christie — aware of Adelson’s intention to bankroll “a mainstream Republican who can win” in 2016 — felt compelled to call a private meeting and apologize. According to Politico, Christie told Adelson that he’d “misspoken,” and “clarified in the strongest terms possible that his remarks today were not a statement of policy.”
The episode makes two things clear: One, Christie definitely intends to run for president in 2016 (why else would he care what Adelson thinks?); two, that there is almost zero room for dissent on the issue of Israel in American politics, especially within the Republican Party. Christie wasn’t being even remotely critical of Israel — he was underscoring the “military risk that Israel faces” — but Adelson latched on to the one minute aspect that could be interpreted as anti-Israel, and successfully extracted an apology from Christie later in the same day.