As the clock ticked down on Wednesday to the possible declaration of repeat Knesset elections, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis breathed a sigh of relief that he operates in the American political system.
“All I can say is that I’m glad I’m in American politics rather than Israeli politics. It is much more complicated over here than in Florida,” he told reporters after addressing the Israel-USA Business Summit 2019 at Airport City.
“When we planned this trip, we obviously knew that the election would happen before we arrived. When Bibi won, I thought that makes it easier for me because I have a good relationship with him, but obviously we’ll work with whoever comes out.”
DeSantis, who has promised to be the “most pro-Israel governor” in America, is due to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, but the meeting is still not guaranteed to take place.
“I know Bibi and some of the other Knesset members, but I don’t necessarily know everyone who is running. The parties change here all the time, too,” the governor said.
At the summit, organized by the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, DeSantis emphasized that Florida is a great landing spot for Israeli innovators seeking to commercialize their solutions and bring them to larger markets.
“We have a very positive business climate, low taxes, and we want businesses to succeed. In that respect, it’s a ready-made relationship,” he said.
“The state of Florida as a whole, including our legislature, cabinet and the population, is very supportive of Israel,” DeSantis said. “You won’t have a problem in Florida with BDS or any of that stuff, which is just not acceptable here. If you’re somebody in Israel looking to invest somewhere, you don’t want to go to a place with political blowback.”
More than two-dozen Florida-based businessmen and women are currently participating in DeSantis’s business development mission to Israel, his first international trip since taking office in January. More than 20 memorandums of understanding have been signed in multiple fields, including business, trade, academia, innovation and tourism, since the delegation arrived in the country.
Investment opportunities in the United States and Israel recently received a significant boost, with citizens having been eligible for investor visas in both countries since May 1. Israelis wishing to invest significant funds or set up a business in the United States are now eligible to receive an E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, and US citizens are able to obtain a B-5 Israel Investor Visa.
With GDP exceeding $1 trillion, Florida would be the 17th-largest economy in the world if it were an independent country – ahead of countries including Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Argentina. Last year, trade between Israel and Florida stood at approximately $345 million, a 21% increase since 2017.
“This is a special moment for Israel and the United States in general, and the State of Israel and Florida in particular,” said Israel-America Chamber of Commerce CEO Oded Rose.
“US-Israeli relations are critical for the prosperity of the Israeli economy, and the basis of these relations are partnerships and commercial and economic ties. Today we signed a commercial cooperation agreement with the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and I have no doubt that there will be additional US states in the coming years,” Rose said.
Lior Haiat, Israel’s consul-general in Miami, told The Jerusalem Post
that he is fortunate to be serving in the “most pro-Israel place on Earth.”
“This is the biggest governor-led trade mission to Israel, and it’s no surprise that it’s coming from Florida. Potential trade between Israel and Florida is much greater than the reality today, and it gives us a lot of room to work with,” said Haiat.
“Israeli companies, while well connected to the US, are not connected to Florida yet, and we’re working to do that. What we’ve seen in the last few days has been historic, and this is just the beginning. I think we can double or triple the trade between our countries.”
While Israeli companies have traditionally considered Silicon Valley or New York City as the prime destinations for growth and success in the US, that approach is changing.
“Florida is particularly attractive to Israelis because we have no personal income tax, it is considered business-friendly in terms of less regulation, and it has a very similar climate to Israel, which makes them feel at home,” said Ron Klein, a member of Holland & Knight’s Public Policy & Regulation Group and a former Democratic congressman with a history of support for the State of Israel.
“But at the end of the day, it’s business – and that’s where the real attraction is right now. Israel-Florida trade is just on the precipice of taking off, and agricultural-type businesses are the indicators of what is coming in terms of potential collaboration.”