Governor Ron DeSantis visited the West Bank settlement of Ariel on Wednesday, including the university there, to underscore his strong support for Judea and Samaria and his opposition to the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment movement.
“There is no place for BDS in the State of Florida – don’t worry about that,” DeSantis said.
Florida has been a strong opponent of the BDS movement. Its cabinet has recognized Jerusalem as “Israel’s eternal capital.” It also blacklisted the global company Airbnb after it announced that it planned to boycott West Bank settlements. Airbnb has since rescinded that boycott.
DeSantis is the first US governor to visit the Ariel University, which presented him with an Honorary Fellowship Award for his commitment to the State of Israel. Philanthropists Sheldon Adelson, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Ariel Mayor Eli Shaviro and Ariel University President Yehuda Danon attended the ceremony.
“When Airbnb came out with their policy discriminating against Israeli Jews in the West Bank, in Judea and Samaria, I was not even governor yet: I was the governor elect,” DeSantis said. “We immediately came out, threw a shot across the bow and said this isn’t going to stand. Airbnb persisted. When I became governor, we acted to sanction Airbnb. Low and behold, because of our leadership and the leadership of others, just recently Airbnb reversed its discriminatory policy.”
He told the crowd, “I promised to be the most pro-Israel governor in America, and I sincerely thank Ariel University for presenting me the Honorary Fellowship Award,” he said. “This recognition means a lot and I am humbled to be the recipient. Let it be known that Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.
During the governor’s visit, Ariel University signed a memorandum of understanding with Florida Atlantic University. The cooperative agreement also runs counter to BDS efforts to sway American universities to divest from Israel, particularly from endeavors over the pre-1967 lines.
DeSantis said that Ariel University and Florida Atlantic University were on a journey together, the results of which would benefit both Israelis and Floridians.
FAU president John Kelly said that the MOU would “result in partnerships between faculty, facilitate student exchange opportunities and initiate joint research projects in areas ranging from medicine and human health issues to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and addiction research.”
DeSantis is in Israel leading a large trade mission from May 25 to 31. Florida is Israel’s 13th largest trade partner and one of 33 US states that have cooperative economic agreements with Israel. Since 1996, The southeastern state has exported more than $3.8 billion in goods to Israel and that number is growing.
Last year, Texas trade commissioner Sid Miller visited the Samaria region of the West Bank.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman visited the Ariel settlement also last year. It was his first such official visit. Prior to Friedman, American ambassadors never officially visited West Bank settlements.