Pro-Israel group: Christie apology 'unpresidential'

Pro-Israel advocacy group J Street is pouncing on Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.), after he apologized for describing the West Bank as “occupied territories.” 

Christie made the comment in an address to the Republican Jewish Coalition’s (RJC) spring leadership meeting over the weekend in Las Vegas.

Christie reportedly walked back those remarks in a conversation to Jewish Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. He reportedly told Adelson he didn’t believe Israel is occupying the West Bank. 

“Tell Governor Chris Christie: Don’t kowtow to extremists like Sheldon Adelson. You were right the first time: There is an occupation, and it needs to end,” an online petition J Street launched on Monday says. 

J Street, one of the more progressive pro-Israel lobbying groups, unveiled the petition in an email to supporters soliciting their signatures.

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Since 1967, U.S. policy says Israel occupies the West Bank, which has also been recognized by the Israeli Supreme Court, the email said. Every American president has acknowledged it, J Street added, including former President George W. Bush.

“But now, in a craven attempt to win the blessing of right-wing gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is ready to throw aside 47 years of bipartisan US foreign policy: To suck up to Adelson and hopefully get his hands on some of his dollars, Christie is apologizing for using the term "occupied territories,” the email continued.

J Street told its supporters they need to tell these “hawkish heavyweights” the truth, which is that denying the occupation is “an obstacle to peace, and fundamentally un-Presidential.”

Christie spoke at the RJC event, which was hosted at Adelson’s luxury hotel, the Venetian. He said he flew over the “occupied territories,” when he visited the region in 2012.

“Sheldon Adelson will never listen to reason. But Chris Christie needs to hear that real support for Israel means ending the occupation and reaching a two-state solution,” J Street said. 

Christie’s appearance on Saturday was part of his political comeback tour after an internal inquiry’s report late last week said it found no evidence Christie knew of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge in advance.

The New Jersey governor was among a few other 2016 presidential hopefuls at the meeting in an effort to court Adelson’s support.

Govs. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and John Kasich (R-Ohio), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R-Fla.) and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton were the other speakers.   

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the largest and most influential pro-Israel group in Washington, did not weigh in on Christie’s remark or apology.