Eleven days before leaving office, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno bade a tearful farewell to members of the New Jersey-Israel Commission (NJIC). At its Jan. 5 meeting in Newark, she told the group that the emotions she was feeling were more intense than those she had when she lost the 2017 gubernatorial election.
Guadagno, a Republican, has served, under Gov. Chris Christie, since January 2010 as the state’s first lieutenant governor and as secretary of state. Democrat Phil Murphy defeated her, 56 to 42 percent, on Nov. 7 in her own bid to become NJ’s chief executive.
Established in 1989 to fulfill the aims of a “sister-state” agreement, the NJIC promotes trade, culture, and education exchanges and cultivates a spirit of cooperation between Israel and New Jersey. In 2007, it was placed under the purview of the Department of State. About 75 members sit on the commission.
In her capacity as secretary of state, Guadagno attended and spoke at many of the commission’s meetings for the past eight years, most often at the Newark law offices of Sills Cummis & Gross, where the Jan. 5 gathering took place.
Noting that the commission has been in existence for nearly 30 years, Guadagno said that “the good part is that it will continue beyond this administration and the next administration. It will exist beyond politics, because I believe the one thing all of us agree on is we need strong New Jersey-Israel connections, and those connections need to continue.”
Guadagno praised the commission “for its representation on a national level,” as it has waged strong lobbying battles against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. “That type of advocacy sends a message on a national basis,” she said. “You will be the singer of that song.”
Guadagno said that after a pre-inauguration meeting with her successor, she is certain that Tahesha Way is especially interested in her upcoming work with the commission. Guadagno promised that Way, a former state administrative law judge and a past director of the Passaic County board of freeholders, will be “very committed” to the NJIC.
Sniffling as she wrapped up her remarks, Guadagno called her connection to the commission “an amazing adventure.”
“I will never forget it,” she said. “I appreciate everything you’ve done for me on a personal basis, and I hope you appreciate the few things we’ve been able to get done together over the last eight years.”
Then, as she stepped away from the podium, Guadagno said, “I didn’t even cry at my concession speech.”
Prior to the meeting, Guadagno told NJJN she had “no idea what my next adventure will be,” but noted that she is licensed to practice law in both New York and New Jersey.
Following her remarks, Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York, told the 25 commission members in attendance that “the relationship between Israel and Kim Guadagno will not come to an end on Jan. 16,” when the Murphy administration takes office.
Hailing President Donald Trump for his administration’s decision to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Dayan said the move, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, was “already 70 years late.”
He likened the relocation to “something as natural as moving the fridge from the bedroom to the kitchen. It belongs in the kitchen.”
“We are thankful to President Trump that he decided in spite of those who discouraged him from doing it that he did the just thing,” said Dayan.
Despite that fact that only nine countries agreed with the Trump administration in a UN General Assembly vote condemning the announcement, Dayan said, “It was not a defeat.” Observing that 35 nations abstained from denouncing the move, he noted that “one third of the nations either voted with us, abstained, or weren’t present.” He called it “quite a remarkable thing that one third of the countries were not against Israel or the United States.”
Dayan also commended the Trump administration for “its standing for the freedom-loving demonstrators in Iran…. We know that the great friendship between the Persian people and the Israeli people has a future.”
He also said Israel is having “an incredible renaissance in our bilateral relations with the world, with its friendships increasing dramatically within the last five years,” especially with India, China, some Arab states, and several nations in Africa.
Suggesting major realignments in Israel’s relationships with other nations, Dayan said his country’s “major challenge” is in Iran. But he said he has “no doubt that the tyranny in Iran will be overthrown and we will again see a friendship between Israel and Iran and a much more stable and much more peaceful Middle East.”