Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, visited Israel during the significant and sensitive period of Passover, Ramadan, and Easter and, in light of his expected candidacy to become a Republican candidate for the US Presidency, his words had added gravitas to an Israel with huge question marks over the troubling record of the Biden Administration during the last two years, and even more disturbing comments and behavior emanating from the White House and the State Department in recent months.
Addressing the fraying relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia by the Biden Administration, and the strain that it has put on Israel, DeSantis said,
“The Biden Administration worked overtime to alienate Saudi Arabia making it more difficult for Israel to forge a normalization deal with Saud Arabia.”
“I think, with a proper policy and proper relations, you could see Saudi Arabia recognize the existence of Israel.”
About Israel’s role in the Middle East, DeSantis said,
“What’s right with the Middle East is Israel. What’s right with the Middle East is Israel working with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. What’s wrong is Iranian terror and ambitions in the region,” he said.
Regarding Iran, DeSantis said, “There is perhaps no adversary more hostile to both Israel and the US than the Islamic regime in Iran. We must support Israel’s right to defend itself, and that includes strong military and intelligence cooperation.
“It also includes supporting Israel maintaining its qualitative military superiority with systems such as Iron Dome.”
About the United States relationship with Israel, “Our alliance with Israel rests on unique cultural and religious affinities,” DeSantis said as he put forward an Israel policy that was in line with that of the former Trump administration, particularly with respect to Jerusalem.
DeSantis was very clear that he supported a united Jerusalem as the country’s capital, noting that he had spoken about this prior to Donald Trump’s decision when he was in Congress, including holding a hearing on the matter in 2017.
“Jerusalem is, going back thousands of years, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. US policy should recognize the truth,” DeSantis said.
“Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem is critical to ensure freedom of worship for Jews, Muslims and Christians in the city’s holy sites.”
DeSantis recalled that during his last trip to Israel in 2019, he had visited both Ariel University and an industrial park in the Gush Etzion region which he referred to as Judea and Samaria, explaining that he viewed the area as “disputed” and not “occupied” territory.
“Those are the most historic Jewish lands there are, going back thousands of years. There has never been a Palestinian entity.”
About US funding if he was President, DeSantis said, “I would not fund things like the United Nations Relief and Works Agency” referring to the UN organization that perpetuates Palestinian refugees. Nor, DeSantis explained, would he fund the Palestinian Authority if it continues to support terror.
About US-Israel relations, DeSantis added, “Israel is also one of America’s most valued and trusted allies. Maintaining a strong Israel relationship has been a priority for me during my time in elected office, and I know it’s been a priority for the overwhelming majority of the American people.”
DeSantis spoke of the shift in the American political scene “with the Left going one way and the Right and the Center siding with Israel… I think there should be bipartisan support for Israel,” DeSantis said.
Referring to the protests in Israel for and against judicial reforms, DeSantis said, “We should not butt into their internal affairs, that is a debate that is happening here, it is obviously raging… but it is healthy to flush this stuff out. Israel is a rambunctious democracy,”
Recalling a previous visit to Israel, Desantis told of how he had prayed at the Western Wall in 2019, to save his state from Hurricane Dorian which, miraculously, veered direction at the last moment.
He also told of how he and his wife had put water from the Sea of Galilee into a bottle, during an earlier visit, which they used to baptize their children.
This was DeSantis’s 4th visit to Israel.
Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.