Gov. Corzine meets with top Israeli leaders

July 21, 2008 11:09:33 AM PDT
New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine met on Monday with top Israeli leaders and said he's assured them Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama backs America's longtime commitment to Israeli security. Corzine, on the second day of an official visit to Israel, met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, President Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Likud party.

Amid Israeli concern about Iran developing a nuclear program, the Democratic governor who once endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign but now supports Obama said he didn't hear "any rejection of the idea of Barack Obama being the next president of the United States."

Corzine's trip comes a few days before Obama arrives there, giving Corzine a chance to promote Obama as a friend of Israel before his arrival.

"I make it clear that I have a preference, but I am mostly asking the question if there are concerns about this continuity of American foreign policy commitment to Israel, certainly try to be assuring that that's not a risk that I think should be on their minds," Corzine said during a teleconference with reporters.

Corzine added, "I don't think that's there an expectation that Sen. Obama would be anything other than supportive of Israeli right to exist and to respond and protect itself and to provide for its security and to promote peace in the region."

He said most international political talk in Israel centers around Iran's nuclear program, not the Iraq war.

"There is a common view that the Iranian threat of having nuclear weapons is an unacceptable position for the Israelis," Corzine said.

But Corzine said he believes Israel looks at a military strike against an Iranian nuclear facility "as a last resort."

"I think that there is great support for building an international coalition to try to use economic means to accomplish that end," Corzine said.

To that, he said Israel has been complimentary toward New Jersey's law barring it from investing public money in companies that do business in Iran.

Corzine also met Monday with venture capitalists. On Sunday the governor discussed stem cell research with doctors and scientists at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

Israel ranks as New Jersey's ninth largest trading partner, up from 22nd in 2006.

The governor said he's concentrating on business opportunities in industries that include stem cell research, alternative energy, environmentally friendly technologies and research and development in other high technology fields.

"I do believe that there is an enormous opportunity," Corzine said.

He noted an Israeli company called LiveU has opened a Fair Lawn office. LiveU designs, develops and provides a real-time video uplink at broadcast quality.

"This is the kind of thing that we want to accelerate across the broader spectrum," Corzine said.

The multimillionaire Corzine is paying for the trip himself, as he did on a trade trip to Asia in 2006. He said he hopes to arrange a trade mission to India.