Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Thursday to strengthen his state’s ability to combat antisemitism and emphasized that there has never been a “Palestinian” state in the Land of Israel or elsewhere.
The Republican politician was in Israel, where he keynoted a conference organized by The Jerusalem Post and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance.
“When your focus is only on one Jewish state, and you hold it up to a different standard than any other country in the world, that is antisemitism,” said DeSantis.
“We are doing what we can do in Florida to enhance the ability to hold people accountable when that really crosses the line into threatening conduct. We are fighting back,” added the Republican, who is considering a 2024 U.S. presidential run.
“We must reject those who reject Israel’s right to exist,” he said.
The governor said that the historic biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria should be viewed as “disputed territory,” as the Trump administration referred to it, and not as “occupied territory,” as much of the international community labels it.
“It’s disputed territory. Okay, you had a [U.N.] Partition Plan and ’48. Israel obviously declared independence, they were willing to accept that partition. The Arabs rejected the partition, they went to a war rather than accept partition,” DeSantis said at the conference.
“Those are the most historic Jewish lands there are going back thousands and thousands of years. There’s never been a Palestinian Arab entity,” he continued.
He said that he would not fund the “Palestinians” or organizations such as UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) if they engage in terrorism.
DeSantis vowed that the U.S. embassy would “remain in Jerusalem no matter where the political winds of change blow,” and emphasized that Washington “must defend Israel against disfavored treatment by the U.N. and agenda-driven international bodies.”
Former U.S. President Donald Trump relocated the embassy from Tel Aviv to the Israeli capital in May 2018.
With respect to the debate in Israel over the government’s judicial reform initiative, DeSantis urged the Biden administration to refrain from intervening.
“You’re a smart country. You can figure it out. We shouldn’t butt into these important issues,” said the governor.
He also noted that Iran views the United States as its “No. 1 enemy,” with Israel just behind it.
The governor is a staunch supporter of Israel and has fought the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
He is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with representatives of Israeli companies interested in investing in Florida. Israel is Florida’s 19th-largest source of foreign investment, DeSantis’s office has said.
DeSantis, who was visiting Israel with his wife, Casey, noted that they gathered holy water from the Sea of Galilee to baptize their three children, and called the story of Israel’s rebirth 75 years ago a “momentous development” in world history.
“Just as David defeated Goliath, the Jewish people beat the odds,” he said. Israel has faced more challenges than perhaps any other country has in the 75 years since its independence, he added.
The current trip is his fifth to Israel, including three as a congressman.