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Gov. Christie Meets With Teva in Israel

Christie Meets With Pharmaceutical Firm in Israel That Employs Hundreds in North Jersey [the Record,

Hackensack, N.J.]

Record (Hackensack, NJ) - Apr. 04, 2012

April 04--PETAH TIKVAH, Israel -- Governor Christie sat at the conference room table, picked up a pen and signed his name to a letter.

It may seem like a small gesture amid Christie's whirlwind tour of Israel and Jordan. But in the game of political wins, losses and image-making, this gubernatorial signature was a small victory, earned in the second-floor conference room of an Israeli pharmaceutical firm with offices in North Jersey.

It's hard to measure the success of an overseas trip by any political figure. And governors pose an especially vexing dilemma. Unlike the president of the United States, who brings substantial political fanfare and an array of tangible gestures and gifts on a foreign trip, a governor has no peace treaties to sign, no missile reductions to announce, no billion-dollar pledges of food for hungry children.

The challenge can be daunting for a governor from a state like New Jersey, where voters, facing fiscal woes of their own, have been quick in the past to criticize their leaders for embarking on overseas goodwill ventures that don't seem to have tangible results back home.

The Christie administration was looking for just such a tangible victory Tuesday. And that's why the hour-long gathering at Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries, a worldwide leader in the manufacture of generic drugs with about 300 workers in satellite offices in Northvale, Woodcliff Lake and Fairfield, took on a measure of importance.

Christie had spent Tuesday morning in Jerusalem, meeting with Shimon Peres, the Israeli president and Nobel peace laureate. Then he visited Israel's Yad Vashem memorial to World War II Holocaust victims, solemnly laying a wreath with his wife, Mary Pat, on a stone that covered the ashes of victims that had been retrieved from Nazi concentration camps.

After a visit to a school, the Israeli military took the governor on a helicopter tour of the contentious West Bank.

By afternoon, Christie was back in more familiar territory, walking into the Teva offices in an old sewing machine factory in this sprawling city on the outskirts Tel Aviv to discuss ways to bring more jobs to New Jersey.

After chatting behind closed doors for about 45 minutes with Teva CEO Shlomo Yanai, other company officials and several members of the governor's traveling delegation, Christie staged an informal signing ceremony of a "letter of cooperation" to bring more jobs to the Garden State.

Yanai and Christie signed copies, then passed them to each other for more signatures -- and then posed, shaking hands.

It had all the outward signs of a major agreement. But there was no promise of money -- from New Jersey or Teva. No deadline. No estimate of how many jobs might be coming.

The two-page document, which was typed on official stationary and carried the state seal, had a cautionary clause, stating that it "was not intended to create any legally binding obligations." The letter went on to describe itself as "a statement of bona fide intent to work cooperatively for mutually beneficial purposes."

"It means that we have a good intention," Yanai noted.

That promise of intention was something more than a handshake and pleasant conversation -- and that pleased Christie, who strolled from the room grinning as if he had just pushed another policy change through the Democratically controlled state Legislature.

The governor has mentioned several times during his visit here that he is trying to improve relationships with Israeli businesses as well as to forge new ones with the nation's political leaders.

"For me, it's achieving a dream -- to have my governor visit the state of Israel," said Zeev Rubenstein of Tenafly, who accompanied Christie on the trip in his role as executive director of the American Council for World Jewry.

By mid-morning on Tuesday, Kevin Rigby, the Novartis pharmaceuticals executive who runs the business group, Choose NJ, that helped pay for the Israel trip, was trumpeting the news that the delegation had already managed to set up 14 meetings with Israeli business leaders to talk about job creation in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, Christie continued his political pilgrimage.

Christie's visit to the Peres home brought smiles to the 88-year-old statesman, just as his meeting Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did the same.

Standing in the soft morning light that streamed through a stained-glass window depicting the dream story of Jacob fighting with an angel, Christie grasped Peres's hand and said it "was an honor to represent the people of New Jersey."

Peres called Christie a "friend of Israel," then added: "Welcome to this country as a friend and as a guest."

Like the "letter of cooperation" with Teva officials, the pleasantries seemed to underscore a mutual sense of admiration and respect.

Those watching Christie -- from both Israel and New Jersey -- say Tuesday's events answer questions about the trip's deeper context and substance.

"It's a very innovative climate," said Sol Barer of Mendham, one of the New Jersey business leaders who accompanied the governor to the Teva offices. Barer, a senior adviser and former chairman at Celgene, also chairs Christie's advisory committee that has proposed a massive reorganization of Rutgers, Rowan and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

"Think of all the inventions that came out of New Jersey and the high-tech industry," Barer said. "The same thing is happening here in Israel. The governor recognizes that."

On a political level, Israeli officials also sense they have an ally in Christie, too.

"For us, the United States is not just another country or even another super power," said Nadav Tamir, a policy adviser to Peres, as he watched Christie chat with the Israeli president. "And New Jersey is a very important state for us. It has a very large and important Jewish community."

And, Tamir smiled, there is one more goal.

"If you want to do something for the New Jersey and Israeli relationship," he said, "bring Bruce Springsteen here."

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Posted: April 2012