At the Jerusalem Post's Faces of Israel on Thursday morning, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-hate bill that would strengthen his state's ability to fight antisemitism and called Israel "one of the most valued and trusted" allies of the U.S.
During his address before the crowd of some 400 participants, DeSantis emphasized his support for the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, noted his opposition to pro-Palestinian campaigns to isolate Israel, and echoed Israeli worries about Iran.
"The task before us as Americans is standing strongly and forthrightly with Israel and with the Jewish people," said DeSantis, who is set to announce his run for the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign in May, according to NBC News.
He stated that Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem would allow freedom of mobility in its religious sites.
"With Israeli sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem, people have the ability to visit those sites freely. That would not be true if it were in other hands."
DeSantis went on to answer questions and commented on the Abraham Accords as part of Middle East peace.
"What's right with the Middle East is Israel. What's right with the Middle East is Israel working with the UAE and Bahrain. What's wrong with the Middle East is Iranian terrorism, is Iranian ambition," he said. "Arguably prior to this administration taking office, the Middle East was probably in as good of shape as it's been in a long time."
Regarding the current administration and the judicial reforms it is advancing, DeSantis said his view is that the U.S. "should not butt into the internal affair.
"It seems to me, just as an outsider coming in, that at the end of the day, it's healthy to flush this stuff out," he said, adding that Israel is a "very rambunctious democracy" and that he trusts that things will "work themselves out."
The 44-year-old governor arrived in Israel on Wednesday, Israel's Independence Day. His itinerary includes speaking at the conference hosted by the news outlet and the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a tour of the West Bank.
Although Netanyahu regularly liaises with U.S. state governors, the highly-anticipated meeting between the two has the potential to ruffle the feathers of former president Trump, who himself has thrown his hat into the Republican primary ring.
DeSantis's last visit to Israel was in 2019, around the time he was elected as the 46th governor of Florida, during which he embarked on a solidarity trip to a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
“A few months after my inauguration for my first term as governor of Florida, I traveled to Israel for a state visit with the largest ever trade delegation from the sunshine state to the Jewish state,” DeSantis said. “Since that time, we have strengthened the relationship between Florida and Israel through increased investment by Israeli companies in our state, fighting the scourge of BDS, and being home to the fastest-growing Jewish population in the United States. At a time of unnecessarily strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people.”
In 2018, DeSantis promised to be "the most pro-Israel governor in the U.S." In his book, he explains how he helped prepare the ground for moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and believes that the West Bank "is not occupied territory; it is disputed territory."