The Record
April 1, 2012

SINCE THE 1980s and Tom Kean’s days of leading the state, New Jersey governors have been making trips to Israel, and in the process building a uniquely important, mutually beneficial friendship. Such trips carry economic considerations to be sure, both in good times or bad. But there are also long-treasured cultural connections that must be maintained and strengthened.

Governor Christie continues the tradition today, leaving on a weeklong trip with his family to the Middle East. The governor will not only meet with diplomatic leaders in Israel, but will visit Jordan also, where he will sit down with King Abdullah II, before returning on Easter Sunday.

The Governor’s Office is billing the trip as the “Jersey to Jerusalem Trade Mission.” The New Jersey delegation will include members of the state’s Jewish and business communities, and plans are for the governor to meet with business and trade groups.

We wish the governor well in his travels. Just as it is important for the United States to maintain its alliance with Israel in a very volatile region, it is essential for Trenton to nurture its mutually beneficial relationship with Jerusalem as well.

Trade ties, in particular, between Israel and New Jersey — which are similar in both land size and population — began to thrive during the term of Gov. Christie Whitman. Succeeding governors have done their parts to make certain economic and cultural ties remain strong.

The fruit of those labors can be seen clearly, in purely economic terms. New Jersey companies export roughly $800 million worth of products to Israel every year, concentrated in computers, aircraft parts and a wide range of electronic equipment.

Politically, Christie’s trip comes as the governor is beginning to rev up for his reelection bid in New Jersey next year, and also as his national star is continuing to rise within the Republican Party.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is a co-sponsor of the trip, along with Choose New Jersey, a non-profit formed by business executives in 2010 to help expand the state’s economy.

We expect the governor will be educated during this trip to the Middle East. He will learn, firsthand, of the region’s varying cultures and traditions. We expect, too, that he will use what he learns to make New Jersey stronger as well, culturally and economically.

Financially, culturally and technologically speaking, the world is a much smaller place than it was when Gov. Tom Kean traveled to Israel in 1988. And yet New Jersey’s commonality with both Israel and the Middle East has grown exponentially larger in recent years.

We look for the governor to explore that commonality and to nurture it where he can. New Jersey is a state that needs good trading partners and good neighbors, wherever they reside