LAS VEGAS (JTA) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly apologized to casino magnate Sheldon Adelson for referring to the “occupied territories” in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition.
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 said.
Christie’s remark upset some of the conference’s attendees.
“Chris Christie either does not understand the issues affecting Israel, or he’s not a friend of Israel,” said Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who said he had brought up the remark to Adelson.
But the RJC’s executive director, Matthew Brooks, dismissed Christie’s remark as “a slip of the tongue.”
“I have every confidence that Governor Christie is an unabashed, unequivocal supporter of Israel,” he said.
Christie was one of several Republicans considered possible presidential candidates to address the conference.
Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, spoke to a private dinner on Thursday at Adelson’s personal aircraft hangar. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton addressed the conference on Saturday, along with Christie.
Politico reported that its unnamed source, whom it called “familiar with the conversation” with Adelson, 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, the Israelis he met wanted to feel secure in knowing that they could count on the U.S. friendship.
“They want America to be their unblinking, unwavering, unquestioning friend,” he said. “And the sense I got from that trip was that many of those folks, not all of them, but many of them were worried that we were no longer being that.”