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Day Two in Israel: Times calls Crist Christ; pols cut deal, get caught in politics

In a cutline in Wednesday's Jerusalem Times, Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist was glorified even beyond what he's used to from his entourage. The paper announced: "Christ visits Jerusalem." House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, who supplied us with this photo, suggests the headline Img_0056_2"perhaps overstated the importance of our trip, but it might explain Governor Crist's 72 percent approval rating."

Gelber reports that the delegation made progress in its goal to enable closer business ties between the two countries. They met with Eli Yishal, Israel’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor, and "discussed the final details of a Memorandum of Understanding between Florida and Israel." The agreement, Gelber said, was worked out by Yishal’s Deputy and Crist’s Chief of Staff George Lemieux and "will provide that both Israel and Florida will make $10 million available to promote collaborative efforts for research and development in the Life Sciences and Aerospace industries. Congressman Wexler called it a 'homerun.' ”

Gelber says the delegation spent the morning touring the Old City and the Western Wall, and then headed to the Knesset for a series of meetings with high ranking Israeli officials. Then, surprise, the politicians got snagged by politics. Here's Gelber's account:

"By accident, we seemed to find ourselves in the midst of Israeli electioneering. Our first meeting was with Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres who just minutes before he met with us, announced his candidacy for President of Israel. 

"One of Israel’s elder statesman, Peres spoke about the threat posed by Iran and of the need for economic development in the Jordanian border. Next we met with Benyamin Netanyahu, the opposition leader of the Likud Party and a former Prime Minister himself. Coincidentally, he had an impromptu press conference in the midst of our meeting where he made his case for a change from the current government.

"Governor Crist was polite as an aggressive Israeli media corps (apparently Netanyahu gives few press conferences) peppered Netanyahu with questions in Hebrew."