MERRIMACK, N.H. — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be visiting Israel on Sunday, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to travel to the country since the outbreak of the war.
During a town hall in Merrimack, New Hampshire, Christie said he plans to talk to families of the people taken hostage by Hamas on Oct. 7, members of the Israel Defense Forces and government officials.
He told reporters he’s unable to share more specifics about who he’s talking with until he gets there because of safety concerns.
Christie told the audience he is leaving for his trip Friday. He said he wants to “see it for myself,” adding, “I don’t think you can try to be president of the United States and be afraid to go and see what’s happening on the ground.”
“If you really want to lead, you need to go over and show the people of Israel, that one person running for president of United States cares enough to get on an airplane and get over there and do what needs to be done to find out how we fix this problem,” Christie later added.
Christie said the goal of his trip is to learn. “I’m just going to, like, ask a lot of questions and then shut up and listen, and hopefully it’ll make me a better candidate. And I’m confident it will make me a better president,” he said.
Christie told reporters Israel’s foreign ministry invited him come to Israel. Asked whether the ministry reached out to every candidate, he said, “I have no idea, but I can just tell you that they said they appreciated the things I was saying and the stance I was taking, if I was interested in coming over they will be able to welcome me and I made the decision to come.”
During the debate hosted by NBC News on Wednesday night, Christie said if he were in the Oval Office, on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu, he would say, “America is here no matter what it is you need at any time to preserve the state of Israel.”
This is not Christie’s first time visiting a conflict zone while running for president. He made a surprise trip to Ukraine in early August.
CNN, who first broke this story, reports he is also planning to visit a part of Southern Israel known as the Gaza envelope, a populated area of Israel that is about 5 miles from the Gaza strip.
Christie is scheduled to give a foreign policy address at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, on Wednesday.