Republican Presidential candidate, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (C) led by IDF Spokesperson Maj. Liad Diamond (R), and Amir Ohana (L), Speaker of the Knesset, visits Kibbutz Kfar Aza which was attacked by Hamas on Oct. 7 near the Gaza Border on November 12, 2023 in Kfar Aza, Israel. The former New Jersey governor, who is running for the Republican nomination in next year's presidential race, is visiting the country in the wake of the October 7 attacks by Hamas that left an estimated 1,200 dead and over 240 kidnapped, according to Israeli authorities.
CNN  — 

GOP presidential hopeful Chris Christie promised on Sunday to tell Americans of the devastation he saw in Israel after becoming the first Republican presidential candidate to visit the country following the October 7 Hamas attacks.

Christie, who has made US leadership on the world stage a focal point of his campaign, insisted more people should see the impact of the violence for themselves, especially those who want to sit in the Oval Office.

“If you don’t understand the stakes after seeing this, then you’re lost,” he said, repeatedly assuring those impacted by the attacks throughout his trip that most Americans are still in favor of supporting Israel.

Christie said people play on “confusion and misinformation” around events like this, and that he would go back to the US and share “exactly” what he saw in foreign policy speech scheduled for Wednesday.

Christie also met with families of hostages being held in Gaza, telling them the safe release of their loved ones has to be “a priority that supersedes anything else because of the lives that are at risk here.”

Earlier in the day, he toured a kibbutz where he was shown a home riddled by bullet holes and told of stories of entire families dying and children hiding for hours amid the violence.

He said to be able to “walk into one of these homes and smell the death, still, a month later, is something the American people need to know and hear directly from someone who has seen it themselves.”

Recalling a screening of a documentary produced by the Israel Defense Forces, Christie told CNN’s Omar Jimenez later Sunday that he was most struck by the “joy” that Hamas militants took in executing the attacks.

Christie, who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv just months after launching his 2024 presidential bid, has distanced himself from rivals who are reluctant to provide aid to allies in wartime.

When asked by CNN about bills proposed by Congress to avert a government shutdown that don’t include funding for Israel or Ukraine, Christie insisted if the US doesn’t stand firm with allies, “the evil foursome will fill in our vacuum that we leave,” pointing to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Christie told CNN that he and Israeli President Isaac Herzog discussed the state of the war and the US’ involvement, as well as the hostage situation during a meeting in Jerusalem.

He did not meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but Christie distanced himself from comments the Israeli leader made in opposition to a role for the current Palestinian Authority government in Gaza once the war ends.

“I don’t see any long line of folks looking to volunteer to take over Gaza from Hamas,” he said, explaining that he thinks a “diplomatic solution” will have to be reached by “all the interested parties” once the war has concluded.

Christie also addressed growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza that have stoked political tensions around the globe as the Palestinian death toll rises. He said his message to protesters is “come to Israel and see it for yourself,” as he stood in Kibbutz Kfar Aza, where nearly every home was impacted in the attack.

Asked whether he agrees with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that “far too many” Palestinian civilians have been killed in the war, Christie responded, “any loss of civilian life is tragic and should be avoided at all costs.”

But, he continued, “We need to make sure that Hamas cannot use the civilians as a shield to prevent them from having their military capability degraded.”