PM to Christie: Israel, New Jersey are similar

Netanyahu meets New Jersey governor Chris Christie, says Arab Spring painted green by "Islamists, not environmentalists."

Netanyahu meets NJ Governor Christie 370 (photo credit: GPO)
Netanyahu meets NJ Governor Christie 370
(photo credit: GPO)
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a man mentioned as a possible Republican vice-presidential candidate, met Monday with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and said it was only natural Israel would be his first foreign destination as governor.
“This is my first visit abroad as governor and there was never any question of where we would come first, so I’m glad we did,” Christie said before the meeting.
He was elected governor in November 2009.
Netanyahu welcomed Christie with a line likely to become fodder for US late night comedians, saying, “You know, there are so many similarities between New Jersey and Israel.”
“We’re roughly the same size,” Netanyahu said. “We’re roughly the same population. I know your voters have better neighbors. Other than that, there are several similarities and I look forward to discussing how we can increase the cooperation.”
Soon after Netanyahu made his comment, prominent US political journalist and blogger Ben Smith tweeted: “Other things New Jersey and Israel have in common: Beaches, obsessive politeness.”
Christie endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney in October, ending months of speculation that he himself might enter the 2012 presidential race.
Christie arrived in Israel Monday for a visit billed as “Jersey to Jerusalem: Economic Growth, Diplomacy, Observance,” accompanied by his family and a delegation of 14 business and Jewish leaders. Among them was Dan Senor, co-author of the popular book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle.
The four-day visit to Israel is being seen by some as Christie’s way of putting himself on the national political map.
He will be here until Thursday, when he will travel to Jordan for a meeting with King Abdullah II.
Christie met Netanyahu soon after arriving, and – according to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office – their discussion dealt first with economic issues, then the region.
Regarding the changes in the Middle East, Netanyahu said the world was witnessing a “tectonic shift in the region,” in that “it appears the so-called Arab Spring is being painted green – and I am talking about Islamists and not environmentalists.”
Netanyahu was not relating to recent events in Egypt, where a Muslim Brotherhood candidate has announced his intention to run for president, but rather at how events have played out in Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, officials in his office explained.
While they also discussed Iran and Syria, the Palestinian issue did not even come up. American politics was another issue that was not raised, with one official saying Netanyahu is careful to avoid discussing this issue with visiting leaders.
Three of Christie’s children came to the Prime Minister’s Office to meet Netanyahu, and shuffled out before the meeting began. “It was cute,” one official said of the children aged 16, 12 and nine. “They were well-behaved.”