Republican presidential candidate and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition on Saturday, October 28.
CNN  — 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will visit Israel on Sunday, which will make him the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the country since the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Christie, who has made US leadership on the world stage a focal point of his campaign, confirmed the trip, which was first reported by CNN, at a New Hampshire town hall Thursday.

The former New Jersey governor said he would meet with families of people kidnapped by Hamas, as well as Israel Defense Force soldiers and Israeli government officials.

He’s also scheduled to visit so-called Gaza envelope region in southern Israel, according to an itinerary of the trip shared with CNN.

Christie told reporters on Thursday that the Israeli government reached out last week to invite him to visit.

“They said they appreciated the things I was saying and the stance I was taking and if I was interested in coming over, they would be able to welcome me, and I made the decision to come,” he said.

CNN has reached out to the Israeli government for comment.

In what might have been a preview of his discussions this weekend with Israeli officials, Christie urged Israel from the debate stage Wednesday night in Miami to protect both its territorial integrity and the safety of its civilians and to ensure that “Hamas can never do this again.”

“The fact is that Israel and their intelligence community failed. They failed here, and they failed the people of the State of Israel,” he argued, saying the US needs to work closely with Israel to improve intelligence-gathering in the region.

He also encouraged Israeli leaders to “keep your eye on the ball,” in terms of working with “reasonable” Arab nations and isolating Iran in the Middle East.

Christie told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Thursday he believes conversations about a two-state solution in the region “had to have stopped definitively” in the wake of the Hamas attacks, though he previously has expressed support for that ultimate outcome.

“I think there can’t be any discussion right now about a two-state solution until you dispose with Hamas’ ability to be able to bring that kind of terrorist attack again,” he said on “AC360.”

This will not be Christie’s first time in Israel – he visited the country in 2012 in his first foreign trip is governor.

Christie, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv just months after launching his 2024 presidential bid, has made standing up to US adversaries abroad central to his vision for America and has distanced himself from rivals who are reluctant to provide aid to allies in wartime.

“This is the price we pay for being the leaders of the free world,” he said Wednesday, accusing China, Iran and North Korea of working to support Russia because “dictators work together.”

After he returns from Israel, Christie is expected to deliver a foreign policy address at the Hudson Institute on Wednesday and to further lay out his worldview.

President Joe Biden visited Israel last month in an extraordinary wartime trip to Tel Aviv, where he expressed his support for the country’s right to defend itself, as well as advocated easing civilian suffering in Gaza.

At the time, Christie said he thought it was “the right thing” for Biden to go to Israel and show “physical solidarity” with the US ally.

Since then, Israel has expanded its ground operations in Gaza, and growing political divides have erupted in the US and around the world over whether a ceasefire should be implemented.

The White House announced Thursday that Israel had agreed to move forward with daily four-hour pauses of military operations in areas of northern Gaza.

Christie previously told CNN he didn’t think a humanitarian pause in Israel’s ground invasion of Gaza would ultimately lead to American hostages being able to get out of the region.

“Look, I would think if we could get Americans out that would be a goal for us to reach, but I don’t think that would happen. I think what Hamas would want is not a pause. They would want a guarantee that Israel would not invade Gaza at all. And we can’t give them that guarantee because of the attack they perpetrated on October 7,” he said late last month.

This story has been updated with additional developments.