New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apologized to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson for referring to the “occupied territories” in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
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Christie met with Adelson, a major GOP donor, privately on Saturday afternoon in Adelson’s Las Vegas office in the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino, which hosted the RJC meeting, Politico reported, citing an unnamed source.
During his speech on Saturday, Christie spoke of his family’s trip to Israel in 2012.
“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 reportedly said.
Several news outlets reported that the crowd of Jewish Republicans at Christie’s speech noticeably gasped at Christie’s use of the loaded term.
Politico reported that the unnamed source, which it called “familiar with the conversation,” said that Christie made clear “that he misspoke when he referred to the ‘occupied territories.’ And he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.”
The source told Politico that Adelson accepted Christie’s explanation.
Christie said that during his trip to Israel, everyone he met wanted “America to be their unblinking, unwavering, unquestioning friend. The sense I got from my trip was that many of those folks, not all, but many of them were worried that we were no longer being that,” The Star-Ledger newspaper reported.
Also attending was the RJC's Spring Leadership Meeting was Israel's U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer.
The American-born envoy was one of a list of high-profile guests, including Christie, ex-UN Ambassador John Bolton, Ohio Governor Jon Kasich and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. According to the RJC website, former vice president Dick Cheney was keynote speaker at the event's gala dinner. Dermer attended the event's Shabbat dinner, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The ambassador attended the event amid a strike by employees of Israel's Foreign Ministry, declared last week, which closed down the country’s foreign missions and totally paralyzed the Israeli diplomatic system.
For a foreign ambassador to speak at a political event, particularly one aligned with party in the opposition is highly uncommon, according to LobeLog, which added that Dermer agreed to speak at the event days after he replaced former ambassador Michael Oren in February last year.