DeSantis heading to Israel ahead of likely 2024 bid

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who once vowed to be the most “pro-Israel governor in America,” will make his second visit to the nation right before he’s expected to jump into the 2024 presidential race.

The Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem announced Tuesday that DeSantis will head to Israel, where he is expected to deliver the keynote address on April 27 for an event titled “Celebrate the Faces of Israel.” His trip abroad will come after swings through several states next month, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Utah.

DeSantis has been a vocal defender of Israel during his time in office and supported the decision by the Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. He led a trade delegation to Israel in 2019, where he also held a ceremonial Florida Cabinet meeting with other statewide elected officials. While governor, he has also pushed to go after corporations that boycotted or limited their activities in Israel and supported state funding to make security improvement to Jewish schools.

His trip, however, comes in the wake of ongoing turmoil in Israel over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for a judicial overhaul. Netanyahu announced a delay in those plans on Monday following a wave of protests and worker strikes. The unrest caused airlines to ground flights and businesses closed their doors.

The visit to Israel will come a few months after he met face-to-face in Tallahassee with Michael Herzog, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., along with Yousef Al Otaiba, the ambassador from the United Arab Emirates and Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, the consul general of Israel in Miami.

The release about DeSantis’ visit said he will speak about the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship before a group of roughly 400 participants, including 120 U.S. Jewish philanthropists.

“At a time of unnecessarily strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people,” DeSantis said in a statement.

The governor’s decision to make a speech in Israel is sure to garner outsized attention given his rising prominence among Republicans and conservatives.

DeSantis’ positions on foreign policy have begun to draw more attention as his likely campaign for president become more likely. His statement that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a “territorial dispute” drew scorn from other Republicans, including Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

After those remarks were distributed on Fox News, DeSantis called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” in a subsequent interview.

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