The Washington Post

Why Chris Christie’s ‘occupied territories’ remark matters

Chris Christie had a single mission when he spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition's spring meeting in Las Vegas this past weekend: Woo billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who is actively shopping for  a 2016 candidate.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie laughs while speaking during the Republican Jewish Coalition spring leadership meeting at The Venetian Las Vegas on March 29, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In recounting a 2012 trip he and his family took to Israel, Christie noted that he took a helicopter from "occupied territories" that helped him "understand the military risk that Israel faces every day."

The "occupied territories" refers to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where Palestinians live and where there is an Israeli military presence. The Israeli government and many of its supporters believe Israel has a right to the land. The United Nations refers to the land as the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The remark was looked upon as a gaffe because the Republican Jewish Coalition is unwaveringly pro-Israel in its foreign policy. Adelson is a stalwart supporter of Israel and wants his candidates to be the same.

While candidates were looking to make an impression with all the potential donors, there is no doubt that Adelson was being courted. He hosted the event at his casino, the Venetian, and some dubbed the weekend the "Sheldon Primary."

The candidates speaking before the group, including Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, have little foreign policy experience. But each spent time reaffirming support for Israel.

Christie's comment may all be in the past. According to Politico, he apologized to Adelson, saying he misspoke and reaffirming his support for Israel. And according to reports, Adelson was front and center for Christie's speech, unlike for others.

Katie Zezima is a national political correspondent covering the 2016 presidential election. She previously served as a White House correspondent for The Post.



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