DeSantis to visit Israel next month ahead of expected 2024 presidential run
Governor to lead trade delegation from Florida, says Sunshine State serves as a bridge between Americans and Israelis during time of ‘unnecessarily strained’ US-Israel ties
Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief
Florida Governor and presumed 2024 Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis will visit Israel next month, his office told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.
Desantis will be leading a trade delegation from the Sunshine State and be speaking at an April 27 gala event organized by The Jerusalem Post and the Museum of Tolerance in the capital, his office confirmed.
“A few months after my inauguration for my first term as Governor of Florida, I traveled to Israel for a state visit with the largest ever trade delegation from the Sunshine State to the Jewish State,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Since that time, we have strengthened the relationship between Florida and Israel through increased investment by Israeli companies in our state, fighting the scourge of [the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement], and being home to the fastest growing Jewish population in the United States.”
“At a time of unnecessarily strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people,” he added in an apparent shot at the Biden administration over its handling of ties with the Jewish state.
Relations have indeed been rocky since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to the premiership three months ago, with the US summoning Israel’s ambassador to Washington Mike Herzog to the State Department after the Knesset passed legislation allowing the resettlement of northern West Bank areas evacuated by Israel in 2005.
The law followed already bubbling frustration in Washington over far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s visit to the flashpoint Temple Mount, a series of deadly IDF raids in the West Bank, the advancement of plans for over 10,000 settlement homes and nearly a dozen West Bank outposts, a pair of incendiary remarks toward Palestinians by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the government’s highly controversial judicial overhaul.
DeSantis has long been one of the most vocally pro-Israel members of the Republican party, focusing his criticism of Middle East leaders on the Palestinians. He claims in his recent book that he helped lay the groundwork for former US president Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and argues that the West Bank is “disputed” rather than “occupied” territory.
The Florida governor has also passed legislation targeting companies who boycott Israel or its West Bank settlements. In 2019, he promised to be “the most pro-Israel governor in America.”
During a visit to Israel that same year, he ran a ceremonial Florida Cabinet meeting with other state officials.
His efforts to boost funding for security improvements in Jewish schools earned him accolades from Jewish leaders, but other sections of the community have taken particular issue with his stances on LGBTQ rights.