Chris Christie announced plans to visit Israel following an hour-long meeting Oct. 24 between the governor and Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
Christie and Oren, who grew up in West Orange, met at the governor’s office at the State House in Trenton and spoke briefly with reporters afterward.
Planned for the spring, the visit would be Christie’s first foreign trip as governor.
“We decided we want to go, and we want to visit for ourselves. It’s an important visit for me personally and an important visit for the folks of New Jersey as well,” Christie said after the meeting.
The Republican governor said he looked forward to “continuing to strengthen our ties between our states.”
“There’s a great, great, great long-term connection between New Jersey and Israel, and I intend to make that as strong as I can along with the ambassador and other important folks in the Israeli government,” he said.
Recapping their meeting, Oren said the two discussed Israel’s security concerns as well as the record of commercial and cultural cooperation between Israel and New Jersey.
“We have great centers of support in the state, and we discussed ways that we can further advance this in the field of trade and security, in tourism by having the governor and his family come visit us, and we look forward to hosting you very much, you and your family,” Oren said.
The meeting also included Israel’s consul general in New York, Ido Aharoni; deputy consul general Shlomi Kofman; and Mark Levenson of West Orange, chair of the New Jersey-Israel Commission.
“It was an excellent meeting where we discussed the many similarities between New Jersey and Israel — their size and diverse population,” said Levenson.
Levenson said the burgeoning trade between the United States and Israel has remained strong despite the economic downturn.
In 2010 New Jersey exported almost $815 million worth of manufacturing goods to Israel, and a total of $8 billion in exports since 1996.
In a press briefing immediately after the meeting, Christie said Oren had suggested April as a time for him and his wife, Mary Pat, to make their first foreign trip as the first family of New Jersey.
Oren, who made aliya in 1979, said he enjoyed reminiscing with the governor about the places both frequented when young.
Oren cited the similarities in size and population between New Jersey and Israel to make a point about the dangers Israelis face every day.
He asked listeners to “imagine the state of New Jersey transported to the Middle East, where we find tens of thousands of rockets on its borders, hostile nations, a nation not far away that is developing nuclear weapons with the express purpose of erasing the Jewish state from the map.”