Florida's DeSantis: West Bank is 'disputed,' not occupied by Israel

The West Bank "is not occupied territory, it is disputed territory," DeSantis told the RJC. "I don't care what the State Department says."

 Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks with his wife Casey DeSantis at his side during his 2022 US midterm elections night party in Tampa, Florida, US, November 8, 2022 (photo credit: REUTERS/MARCO BELLO)
Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks with his wife Casey DeSantis at his side during his 2022 US midterm elections night party in Tampa, Florida, US, November 8, 2022
(photo credit: REUTERS/MARCO BELLO)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis defended Israel's claim to the West Bank in his speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition's (RJC) annual leadership meeting on Saturday night in Las Vegas.

According to the 2024 presidential hopeful, the West Bank "is not occupied territory, it is disputed territory," he claimed. "I don't care what the State Department says."

The Floridian was one of a host of Republican leaders who spoke at the convention, including former US president Donald Trump and likely the next speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy, who told Jewish Republicans he plans to remove outspoken anti-Israel Democrat Ilhan Omar from the US House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ron DeSantis showcases pro-Israel portfolio

DeSantis added to his pro-Israel credentials by stating he was "the first statewide elected official to do public events in Judea and Samaria...because we understand history, we know those are thousands of years of connection to the Jewish people."

Flordia's Republican governor was always a "big advocate" of the US embassy move from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital of Jerusalem, DeSantis further said. "You gotta know the history...which is why I was a big advocate as a Congressman to move the embassy.

"They said it would spark World War III and they were wrong."

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addresses the Israel-USA Business Summit 2019, May 29, 2019 (credit: OHAD GIGI)Florida Governor Ron DeSantis addresses the Israel-USA Business Summit 2019, May 29, 2019 (credit: OHAD GIGI)

DeSantis boasted that he won "the highest share of the Jewish vote for any Republican candidate in Florida history," adding that his electoral success with Florida's Jews stems from legislation signed combatting antisemitism in Florida and the US.

"We've enacted, enhanced and robust Holocaust education standards," DeSantis said, "because we know how important it is that we never forget. We signed legislation combating antisemitism."

In 2019, DeSantis signed into law legislation that defined antisemitism as calls for violence against Jews, advancing conspiracy theories about Jewish control and Holocaust denial. It also includes “applying double standards” to Israel “by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

The bill also mandated that discrimination against Jewish people be treated the same as acts of racial discrimination in Florida’s public education institutions.

In the RJC convention, DeSantis vowed that his administration will "not allow universities in the state to become hotbeds of anti-Jewish sentiment."

Another speaker at the convention was Israeli prime minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu, who deflected the debate over his inclusion in the partisan convention by stressing the bipartisan nature of the relationship between Israel and the US.