Jerusalem hearts DeSantis

It appears Gov. Ron DeSantis and his cast of 100 lawmakers, business leaders and university officials earned some love from the locals during an economic-development mission in Israel.

The sojourn, which included a “ceremonial” meeting of DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet generated some controversy back home.

But The Jerusalem Post editorial board gave the Republican governor a big thumbs up as the tour wrapped up Thursday.

“Thank You, Gov. DeSantis,” the headline on the editorial read, right above a pull-out quote from DeSantis: “Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.”

Below are some excerpts:

“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,” the editorial begins.

The editorial board also praised DeSantis for trashing the BDS movement:

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.

And here’s the kicker:

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.

Inquiring minds headed to Israel

Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to lead a four-day trip to Israel, with nearly 90 tag-alongs that include Cabinet members, top-tier lobbyists, state lawmakers and religious leaders.

The governor publicly announced the trip in April, but since then the planning of the trip and questions about it have largely been kept secret. But as the voyage gets closer, the drip-drop of details are putting a spotlight on some of what’s in store.

One lingering question is how much the trip will cost Florida taxpayers. DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre said about 80 members of the entourage are paying their own way.

At least one person footing their own bill said they’re staying at the Hilton in Tel Aviv, where they’ll be joined by a number of other members of the delegation who may be traveling on the taxpayer dime.

What’s the cost for one of those rooms? Accommodations range from $556 to $1,133 per night, according to the hotel’s website.

While questions about the cost and the substance of state officials’ meetings remain, two news organizations have announced they will be sending reporters to keep Floridians informed.

As of Thursday afternoon, two reporters have signed on to take the trip to Israel: Jeff Schweers, a state government reporter with the USA TODAY Network in Florida, and AG Gancarski, a reporter with Florida Politics.

“Coming next week (and assuming he gets past customs), intrepid reporter @AGGancarski will be reporting from @GovRonDeSantis and the Florida Cabinet’s historic trip to Jerusalem,” tweeted Peter Schorsch, the publisher of Florida Politics.

Schweers also got a last-minute OK from his company to make the trip.

By Ana Ceballos.

Mast heads back to Israel, minus the baggage

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast will return to Israel, this time as part of a Congressional delegation scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to an announcement release by the Palm City Republican today.

The itinerary for the trip, sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, lays out what is expected to be a deep dive into the current conditions in Israel and the rest of the Middle east.

But while it might be intellectually taxing, the tour should be a lot less taxing, physically, than the some of Mast’s previous time spent in the region

Mast, a U.S. Army Ranger veteran wounded in Afghanistan who serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, spent a month in early 2015 volunteering with the Israel Defense Forces at Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv. While there, Mast spent time packing medical kits and moving heavy loads of supplies.

“Our countries share the common ideals of freedom, democracy and mutual respect for all people,” Mast said in Thursday’s press release. “This trip is a great opportunity to hear directly from Israeli government and military leaders about how our two nations can work together to further advance these values.”

In addition to a powwow with Bibi, the agenda includes tours of historic sites, military bases and meetings with former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Dr. Michael Oren and United States Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, as well as Israeli military leaders, professors and entrepreneurs.

Mast’s Middle East summer travel comes as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a St. Petersburg Democrat, prepares for a similar journey, also organized by the American Israel Education Foundation. Crist is among 19 other Democrats on the trip, led by House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, which includes meeting with Netanyahu, Friedman and a visit to the West Bank to meet with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

As the Republican governor of Florida in 2007, slipped a handwritten note into the Western Wall in Jerusalem, asking that the state be spared from storms.

Crist continued that prayerful tradition for nine years.

By Jim Turner.