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Florida's New Governor-Elect Ron DeSantis Big Supporter of Israel: "I Will be Aggressive against BDS"

Boaz Bismuth : Nov 8, 2018 : JNS.org

"I do think that President Donald Trump should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. When I do travel to Israel, I will make that case and urge him to do it just like I urged him to move the embassy when I was over there in 2017." -Ron DeSantis

(Tallahassee, FL)—[JNS.org] In interview with Israel Hayom Editor-in-Chief Boaz Bismuth, Republican Ron DeSantis says his first overseas trip as governor of Florida will be to Israel. (Photo: via US House of Representatives)

If there is one American politician who has made support for Israel a daily agenda item, Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis is that man.

DeSantis, a Republican who for six years served in the U.S. House of Representatives, has his name on a series of legislative initiatives in Congress aimed at protecting and strengthening Israel, the highlight of which was his relentless push to relocate the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Even after U.S. President Donald Trump made the historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's official capital, DeSantis continued to act to implement that move on the ground, arriving in Israel in order to examine possible sites for establishing an embassy in Jerusalem.

During his final term as congressman, DeSantis pushed for U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Coming up on the end of his third term as congressman, DeSantis resigned from the position and decided he would run for governor of Florida—one of the most important states in the U.S. political system. His opponent was Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a man perceived by many to be a rising star in the Democratic Party...

On Wednesday, DeSantis spoke with Israel Hayom in what was his first foreign media interview as governor-elect. If there's one takeaway from this interview, it is that, beginning in Jan. 2019, Israel will have friend in the Florida Governor's Mansion...

Q: What do you believe helped you cinch the race? This was a highly-contested race up until the very last moment. Was it the Jewish vote or a specific segment of the population?

I think we're going to have to sift through the numbers to see exactly how all that shook out. I can tell you, though, that I think that there was a big divide in the race between, you know, me being a very pro-Israel candidate with a record of strong leadership, and my opponent who just wasn't, had been aligned with groups that are very left-wing and hostile to Israel, and so it was definitely something that I stressed throughout the campaign. And as governor, I'm in charge of the anti-BDS list, so when there are boycotts of Israel, I can unilaterally put these companies on Florida's list so that they can't do business with the state of Florida. And I'll be very aggressive in doing that, and I think that that will help combat BDS [the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement].

My first foreign trip as governor is going to be to Israel. I want to obviously develop additional economic relationships, want to make sure we continue to have direct flights from South Florida to Ben-Gurion International Airport. And I also want to establish working relationships between some of the universities and researchers and innovators in Israel with people in Florida, because we have different problems, like red tide [harmful algal blooms], and I think if we're able to work constructively with Israelis, we probably could develop solutions much quicker. So I think that there's going to ... open a lot of possibilities for us.

Q: You were one of the first people to push for the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. As governor, how will you advance similar efforts, whether regarding the Golan Heights or issues concerning Israel?

Well, I want to make sure when we're doing trading with Israel, I don't draw any distinctions like the State Department would between an Israeli Jewish community in Tel Aviv or Jewish communities in the Golan Heights or Judea and Samaria, and I view it all as basically the same. There shouldn't be a distinction. I do think that President Donald Trump should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. When I do travel to Israel, I will make that case and urge him to do it just like I urged him to move the embassy when I was over there in 2017. So, yeah, look, I think when you lead with purpose and conviction like Trump did when he moved the embassy—look, good things happen as a result of that. I think the same is [true] with the Golan Heights. I mean there's no way that that [territory] should ever be transferred to anybody in Syria, whether it's [Syrian President Bashar] Assad, whether it's Hezbollah, you know, ISIS [the Islamic State terrorist group]. I mean it's a disaster. So it's very important strategic ground, and we want to make sure that Israel keeps that and that should not be subject to further dispute...

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[Reprinted with permission ofJNS.org]







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