Florida Politics

DeSantis, joining Pence at Israel event, says Florida will be ‘most pro-Israel’ state

When he officially takes office in January, Governor-elect Ron DeSantis said he will work to make Florida the most pro-Israel state in the U.S. by strengthening economic ties with the country, requesting continued funding for security at Jewish day schools amid “rising anti-Semitism” and potentially bolstering Florida’s legislation against the Boycott, Divest and Sanction, or BDS, movement.

“If we’re not the most pro-Israel state in the country, we will be on January 8,” DeSantis said, referencing the date of his swearing in as Florida’s next governor.

Appearing Friday at the Israeli American Council National Conference in Hollywood, DeSantis addressed a crowd of several hundred Israeli-Americans following a keynote speech from Vice President Mike Pence and remarks by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Miriam Adelson.

The four-day convention, held at the Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, will host Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Sunday.

Pence, hailed by Adelson as the “best of friends that Israel and Jewish people can have,” said President Donald Trump wished to send his best wishes and admiration to the Israeli-Americans in attendance Friday. Trump is in Argentina for a meeting of the G-20 in Buenos Aires.

“It is great to stand before such a remarkable group of Americans,” Pence said. “We stand with Israel because her cause is our cause, her values are our values [and] her fight is our fight.”

Pence, who received roaring applause from the crowd, spent much of his speech praising Israel and listing the accomplishments of the Trump administration to reinstate sanctions on Iran, move the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and cease payments to the Palestinian Authority.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Israeli-American Council Fifth Annual National Conference in Hollywood on Friday. Jose A. Iglesias jiglesias@elnuevoherald.com

He and other speakers also decried the rising wave of anti-Semitism and violent acts of hate in the U.S., promising those in attendance that the Jewish people have a “champion in President Donald Trump.”

An analysis by the Anti-Defamation League found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents rose 57 percent in 2017, the largest single-year uptick recorded. Eleven people were killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, considered to be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Critics of the president, pointing to his “both sides” comments following the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, have said his rhetoric may have emboldened racists. He has denied that.

“There is no place in America for anti-Semitism and violence, and we will confront and condemn it anywhere it rears its ugly head,” Pence said. “That’s what American leadership looks like.”