DeSantis to visit Israel next month, ahead of expected presidential run

The Florida governor is a possible candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential elections.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is coming to Israel next month, ahead of his expected run for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential elections.

He will arrive as part of a large trade delegation and will address a “Celebrate the Faces of Israel” event on April 27 sponsored by The Jerusalem Post and the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. According to his office, he will discuss “the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship – especially in difficult times.”

Other notables who will address the actual and virtual audiences include current and former U.S. ambassadors to Israel Tom Nides and David Friedman, and philanthropist Sylvan Adams. Some 120 American Jewish philanthropists will be in attendance in all, according to the sponsors.

These influential leaders could be an important target for DeSantis, as according to all accounts, he is looking to expand his horizons beyond the state level.

As governor, his foreign policy credentials are on the lighter side, but the one country he has visited – four times in all as a congressman and governor – is Israel. His positive relationship with the Jewish state has long been known; during his original 2018 campaign for the southern state’s helm, he promised to be “the most pro-Israel governor in America.”

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He is most comfortable with the right side of Israel’s political map, being friends with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defending Israel’s claims to Judea and Samaria, and pushing back on the Palestinian narrative. He has also blamed them the Palestinians for the long-running conflict with Israel.

The governor used Florida’s anti-BDS law when Ben & Jerry’s declined to renew its relationship with its Israeli licensee in 2021 because he was selling the product in Judea and Samaria. Tallahassee froze its holdings in parent company Unilever until the conglomerate bypassed its subsidiary’s decision.

DeSantis placed Airbnb on the state’s blacklist in 2019 after it said it would stop listing rentals in Judea and Samaria. He then removed the company from those banned from state investment after Airbnb rescinded its move.

In his keynote address to the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) four months ago, the governor noted that “At a time of unnecessarily strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people.” Part of this, he said, stems from his encouragement of bilateral business relations between Israeli companies and Florida, whose economy is the 16th largest in the world.

His state is also “home to the fastest-growing Jewish population in the United States,” DeSantis said.

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“We won the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history,” he told the RJC, crediting both his fierce support of Israel and his backing of the local Jewish community, as seen by his increase in funding for security for Jewish institutions.

The extra security has become necessary, as according to a report released last week by the Anti-Defamation League, in 2022 antisemitic incidents in Florida hit “an all-time high” of 269, a figure that is “more than double the number of incidents recorded in the state in 2020.”