Shalom, Gov. Christie

Israel Ambassador
Gov. Christie meets with Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren (center right) and other officials at the statehouse in Trenton, N.J. on Monday. (Governor's Office/TIM LARSEN)

Gov. Christie said this morning that he and his wife will head to Israel in the spring on his first official international trip as governor.

Christie made the announcement after meeting with the Israeli ambassador to the United States, West Orange-raised Michael Oren, in Christie's office at the Statehouse. He will be the seventh consecutive New Jersey governor to make an official trip to Israel, the Star-Ledger reported.

"It's an important visit for me personally, and an important visit for the folks in New Jersey as well," he said.

The political backdrop to this (there's always a political backdrop!) is that Christie's visit will be about six months before the presidential election, when the Jewish vote will be critical in swing states like Florida and when the Republican nominee, whoever (s)he may be, will rely on the staunchly pro-Israel evangelical Christian vote. Christie is endorsing Mitt Romney, a Mormon who is still eyed skeptically by evangelicals, and the governor is on Romney's short list for veep.

In remarks to the press after their meeting, Oren began by saying he and Livingston-native Christie went to rival high schools, with Christie's high school always beating Oren's in football.

But Oren also noted that Israel and New Jersey are about the same size in terms of land mass and population (he also may have noted they are shaped alike, too). But unlike New Jersey, Israel deals with hostile nations on its borders and another country nearby that is developing nuclear weapons "with the express purpose of erasing the Jewish state from the map."