Chris Christie doesn't apologize for much. This is the guy who told a former Navy SEAL that his "rear end's going to get thrown in jail, idiot," who asked a reporter, "Are you stupid? ... I'm sorry for the idiot over there," and who told an Occupy Wall Street protester, "Something may be going down tonight, but it ain't going to be jobs, sweetheart" -- to name a few.
Yet sometimes, of course, something can be said that is so breathtakingly outlandish, so horrific and demonizing, that an apology must be offered. That apparently happened the other day when, at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, Christie rubbed some potential donors the wrong way:
"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."
Ironically, this was a comment meant to ease the minds of the conservative donors in the audience. It trails along with the conservative argument that Israel is in constant threat of destruction, and neglects the reality that as of 2013 deaths caused by Palestinian terrorism have declined by over 98% since 2000, according to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But instead, this was seen as going way too far. Before Christie's remarks, he was reportedly approached by Morton Klein, head of the conservative Zionist Organization of America, and told that "at minimum you should call it disputed territories." Subsequently, Christie was apologetic, saying that he "misspoke" and that the occupied territories comment was a "misstatement." Indeed, according to a source, "he conveyed that he is an unwavering friend and committed supporter of Israel, and was sorry for any confusion."
Only in a dreadfully broken political conversation can the mere recognition of historical reality bring your entire policy agenda into question. Anyone who watched Christie's speech would know that he had absolutely zero intention of criticizing Israel to any measurable degree. But all it took was two words -- two words that, by the way, accurately represent the region's history and Israel's continued military presence in the West Bank -- to undermine all of Christie's motives.
This is what happens when we let people like Sheldon Adelson, the host of the conference with some of the deepest pockets in the world, dictate the terms by which we debate these issues. If we can't even inject two accurate words into an otherwise plain, inconsequential speech on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, how can we ever push either side to a peaceful resolution?
A true friend is one that is willing to tell you when you're wrong, not one that blindly comes to your defense. What we need is a robust conversation, not one smeared with fear and one man's bank account. We are likely just two years away from having a presidential candidate who cannot even publicly acknowledge the realities on the ground in the Middle East. For those on the side of peace, that is not good news.