|Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation Monday giving the New Jersey-Israel Commission permanent status. Josh Lipowsky|
Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation in Paramus on Monday that established the New Jersey-Israel Commission as a permanent fixture in New Jersey’s Department of State.
The commission’s goal is to enhance the economic relationship between the Garden State and the Jewish state.
The ceremony, at UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey, included such dignitaries as former U.S. Ambassador to Israel and chair of the New Jersey Israel Commission Daniel Kurtzer and Israel’s Vice Consul General in New York Benjamin Krasna. Also attending were Sens. Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Robert Gordon (D-38) and Assembly members Gordon Johnson (D-37), Gary Schaer (D-36), and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), who sponsored the bill in their respective legislative bodies.
“Israel is one of the Garden State’s most important international partners,” Corzine said before signing the bill. “By signing this legislation, we will enhance an historic collaborative partnership that has flourished for 20 years in areas ranging from technology growth and investment to cultural and educational enrichment.”
Gov. Thomas Kean created the temporary New Jersey-Israel Commission in 1989, a year after New Jersey established a sister-state relationship with Israel.
“Times and conditions can change and political support can be strong at some times and not so strong at others,” Corzine told The Jewish Standard. This bill “is saying that the state of New Jersey believes that [the New Jersey-Israel Commission] is something that should sustain itself.”
Corzine “understands the subtleties as well as the obvious issues around why New Jersey should be involved with the State of Israel,” Weinberg told the gathering.
The timing of the bill is important as well, she noted – not only because of Israel’s 60th anniversary, but because it was signed into law on the first day of Chanukah.
“In one way we are making permanent our own small Temple here and that is our relationship with the State of Israel,” she said.
Corzine also reflected on the significance of the holiday, particularly as it is known as the festival of lights.
Israel, he said, “is an extraordinary light” and should be celebrated as an example of strength in the face of darkness.
“Making this mission permanent is important for a number of reasons,” Gordon said. “First, it recognizes that Israel is our best friend and strongest ally in a very dangerous part of the world. It recognizes that the State of Israel is critically important to the future of New Jersey’s economy.”
Israel was New Jersey’s ninth largest trading partner in 2007, up from its 2006 ranking of 22nd.
“It’s a net positive for the economics of the state,” Corzine said. “One of the central focus points is to try to tie together economic growth for both New Jersey and Israel.”
The bill calls for the commission’s current membership to remain in place until the end of 2011. On Jan. 1, 2012, a commission of 85 members, including eight legislators and 77 public members, will be set up. How the commission fulfills its charge will not change, Corzine clarified after the ceremony.
“It will continue to function as it has,” he said. “This is a live commission.”
Israel’s research and development sector, particularly within its focus on alternative energy sources, has many opportunities to expand in New Jersey to benefit both states, Gordon said. “We recognize that if China is the manufacturer of the world now,” he said, “the center for new ideas that will propel our economy in the future [is] in Israel.”
Corzine also signed a bill congratulating “the modern State of Israel on the 60th anniversary of its independence,” according to the bill’s text. The bill praises Israel for its establishment despite the Holocaust, for fending off three separate invasions from its neighbors, and growing to $140 billion economy with more than one-third of its exports going to the United States.
“Any Jew in the world has a place to go,” said Johnson. “They have a home called the State of Israel. I think that’s a great, great feeling.”