DeSantis is leading a trade delegation of 100 people to Israel starting on Sunday.
By World Israel News Staff and AP
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is keeping his campaign promise that the first country he would visit as governor would be Israel. He arrived on Sunday with a delegation of close to 100 people.
DeSantis’ office said the visit would include “business meetings” with education officials, business leaders, lawmakers and the head of the state’s tourism marketing agency. It’s expected that the governor will devote a good deal of his attention to Israel’s high-tech sector.
DeSantis says the visit will show Florida is the biggest supporter of Israel among the 50 states.
DeSantis has a strong pro-Israel record and promised during his campaign that he would be the “most pro-Israel governor in the country,” promising to aggressively fight the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In January, he warned that Airbnb would face sanctions in his state in response to the company’s decision not to list Israeli properties in Judea and Samaria. The online apartment-rental giant has since retreated from its position.
“There’s no question it’s going to help us,” said Sen. Joe Gruters, who also chairs the Republican Party of Florida. “When people are criticizing members of the Jewish faith and Israel, you have a stark contrast in what Ron DeSantis is doing … letting people know that we do care and that it is a priority for him and the state to be mindful and respectful of the Jews that are living here.”
Gruters sponsored a bill recently passed by the Legislature that prohibits anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools and universities. It’s possible DeSantis will sign the bill into law while in Israel.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried was already in the country Saturday for the third day of her own trade mission.
“My meetings are back to back with all type of advancements in agriculture and research,” Fried said. “My brain is going a million miles per hour with ideas and suggestions to bring back to Florida.”
So far she has met with Israeli experts on medical marijuana, irrigation, and treating algae blooms. She has also talked with researchers fighting citrus greening, a disease that’s devastated orange growers in Florida. On Sunday, she plans to visit a company that works in advanced hydroponics, meet with Israel’s minister of agriculture and visit with cannabis growers.
On Wednesday, Fried will join DeSantis and two other Florida Cabinet members, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, for a meeting at the U.S. Embassy.
The meeting had raised questions about whether it was violating Florida’s open government laws because the public has a right to attend Cabinet meetings.
DeSantis and the Cabinet, however, don’t plan to conduct state business at the meeting, but rather sign proclamations declaring their support for Israel.
Reporters covering the governor’s trip were told they will not be allowed to bring laptops or cell phones into the meeting because of security issues. It will be broadcast on The FLORIDA Channel, a state-funded news service that covers state government.
“My understanding is it’s gone back to being ceremonial in nature,” Fried said of the meeting. “A discussion on the Florida/Israeli relationship and I believe proclamations that are being presented. I believe that is it.”
“To have all four of us going over to show our support for the State of Israel and economic development between the two countries I think is the bigger picture,” she said.