Governor Ron DeSantis (left) receives an award from Tel-Aviv University President Prof.Ariel Porat.
(photo credit: YEHONATAN ZUR DUVDEVANI)
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis showed once again that he is a true friend of Israel during his visit to the country this week.
Even before his trip to Israel, in the weeks after DeSantis was elected governor last year, he immediately took action on behalf of the Jewish state. Florida’s cabinet recognized Jerusalem as “Israel’s eternal capital,” invested $10 million in Israel Bonds and blacklisted Airbnb because of its plan to boycott listings in West Bank settlements, which the global company has since reversed.
This week, DeSantis repeatedly spoke out against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, leading the first official trade mission to the West Bank led by a US governor – with two dozen business leaders. He is also leading the largest-ever official governor-led delegation to Israel.
“Antisemitism is driving the BDS movement, and you cannot separate the two,” he said at the Gush Etzion Industrial Zone on Wednesday, meeting with Jewish and Arab businesspeople who oppose boycotts. “We are not going to discriminate against certain Israelis – and if people do... we will take action accordingly.”
DeSantis pointed to the blatant hypocrisy of the BDS movement, whose leadership’s stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state and that Jews do not have the right to self-determination.
“You have people that are willing to trade with Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world – some of the worst regimes in the world – and yet they only want to boycott the one Jewish and democratic state in the world,” he said.
“If you support BDS in Florida, you are dead, politically,” he added.
Earlier in the week, DeSantis visited Ariel University in the West Bank and emphasized his opposition to boycotts of Israel, saying there is no place for them in Florida.
He also promised to be the most pro-Israel governor in America in his acceptance speech upon being given an award from the university.
“Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East,” he said.
In addition, Ariel University signed a memorandum of understanding with Florida Atlantic University during DeSantis’ visit, countering efforts on US college campuses to divest from Israel.
The governor’s visit and his many friendly gestures towards Israel take on even greater meaning when considering that the State of Florida is Israel’s 13th largest trading partner, having exported over $3.8 billion in goods to Israel since 1996.
His visit was accompanied by some protest back home. In Florida, the First Amendment Foundation filed a lawsuit to block the meeting of the Florida cabinet at the new US Embassy in Jerusalem, claiming it violated the constitutional rights of Florida residents. In its legal suit, the foundation – together with four media companies – claimed that a meeting held 6,000 miles away from the state capital in Tallahassee violated the open meetings provision of the Florida Constitution and the Sunshine Law. Due to embassy regulations, the public is prohibited from attending the meeting and media access is limited. But the court decided not to take action.
In one of his few events outside the West Bank, DeSantis emphasized the benefits of his visit to the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, adding that his state is generally very supportive of Israel.
The Floridian delegation came to Israel seeking opportunities to expand business ties between the southeastern state and Israel, which could be a boon to both economies.
The group signed over 20 memorandums of understanding in multiple fields including business, trade, academia, innovation and tourism.
Israeli Consul-General to Miami Lior Haiat said he is optimistic that Israel can double or even triple trade with Florida, which he called “the most pro-Israel place on Earth.”
DeSantis’ friendship with Israel is at a level that should not be taken for granted. He has backed up his statements with actions, and showed a willingness to continue.
Thank you, Governor DeSantis.
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