1. Florida Politics
  2. /
  3. The Buzz

DeSantis announces Israel will host Florida Cabinet meeting in May

During the trip, scheduled for May 25 to 31, DeSantis will be accompanied by dozens of lawmakers and invited guests. He said the mission of the trip, which is being hosted by Enterprise Florida, would be to promote investment in the state.
Gov. Ron DeSantis visited Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El in Plantation on Tuesday. [Florida's Governor Office]
Published Apr. 9
Updated Apr. 9

After fighting during his time in Congress to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the next Florida Cabinet meeting would take place at the embassy during a weeklong trip to Israel at the end of May.

Florida’s business will be conducted 6,588 miles from where the public meetings usually take place in Tallahassee and would be accessible for state residents only after a flight of about 14 hours.

“That’ll be a historic meeting,” he said Tuesday during an appearance in Plantation.

DeSantis, who promised during his campaign to be America’s most pro-Israel governor, met with members of South Florida’s Jewish community at Plantation’s Temple Kol Ami Emanu-El to announce the details of his first foreign trip as governor.

During the trip, scheduled for May 25 to 31, DeSantis will be accompanied by dozens of lawmakers and invited guests. He said the mission of the trip, which is being hosted by Enterprise Florida, would be to promote investment in the state, tap the insight of Israeli researchers to solve water-quality and environmental issues and strengthen the relationship between Israel and Florida.

“We want to drive investment into Florida with Israeli companies,” he said. “We want to be a part of that.”

He said his strong support for Israel comes from the shared values between the U.S. and Israel, not because of political contributions he receives from pro-Israel donors, as some critics — including Democratic U.S. Rep Ilhan Omar — have argued.

“When people say that people like me who are in office support Israel because of ‘the Benjamins,’ they just don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said, referring to comments made on Twitter by Omar, referring to money, for which she apologized. “It’s about shared values and that’s why we have such a strong relationship.”

Ellyn Bogdanoff, a co-chair of the Israel trip and former Republican state senator, said she was confident Florida’s ties to Israel would strengthen under DeSantis’ tenure as governor, and that Floridians would benefit greatly from that relationship.

“We have a lot to learn from Israel and hopefully a lot to share,” she said.

Tuesday’s announcement came on Election Day in Israel, where embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a possible ouster after Israel’s attorney general recommended he be indicted on corruption charges.

DeSantis, who worked with Netanyahu on the embassy move, said he’d look forward to meeting Israel’s prime minister — “who ever that may be” — during next month’s trip.

“I love Bebe. We have a good relationship, but the people of Israel decide these things and I view whoever they [choose] as somebody that I should definitely work with as governor of Florida to continue the relationship going forward,” he said. “Bottom line: The relationship endures.”

During his time as a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he visited Israel during the opening of the new embassy in Jerusalem last year. The controversial move was met with violence in Gaza, where 60 people died in protest clashes, according to media reports at the time.

DeSantis said that members of the FBI and CIA warned him against promoting the embassy move, predicting the “Middle East is gonna go to flames.”

“And I didn’t believe that,” he told Tuesday’s crowd. “I just didn’t think it would be a big deal. Sure enough, it hasn’t been a big deal.”

Tuesday’s announcement came as Republicans nationally are seeking to portray critics of Israel foreign policy, often Democrats, as misguided or even anti-Semitic.

Despite his own history of pushing anti-Semitic tropes, President Donald Trump has tweeted that Democrats are “anti-Jewish” and that Omar should resign. U.S. House Republicans continue to draw attention to Omar’s comments in an effort to divide Democrats, the traditional political home for most American Jewish voters.

In Florida, where there are about 470,000 Jewish voters who could play a critical role in the 2020 presidential election, DeSantis led the state Cabinet in January to taking a first step toward imposing economic sanctions against the home-sharing platform Airbnb because of a company decision against listing properties in the West Bank, an area that is a major flashpoint in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Republicans are also sponsoring legislation that would require universities and colleges to treat allegations of anti-Semitism the same as charges of racism. The bills define anti-Semitism to include accusing Jewish voters of being more loyal to Israel than the countries they reside.

-- This story was written by Miami Herald staff writer Martin Vassolo

Information from the News Service of Florida and Times/Herald archives was used in this report.


  1. AP file photo of then Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
    DeSantis, Rick Scott and other Republicans have taken a strong stance on Saudi Arabia in recent days. President Donald Trump?
  2. Donald Trump speaks during the Israeli-American Council’s annual summit at The Diplomat Resort & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida on Saturday, December 7, 2019. DANIEL A. VARELA  |  Miami Herald
    The president helps the Republican Party of Florida raise millions and speaks at a national conference on Israeli-American relations.
  3. President Donald J.Trump waves to supporters as he steps out of the Air Force One at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to attend the Republican Party of Florida's Statesman's Dinner at the  JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa and later to the Israeli-American Council Summit 2019 on Saturday. PEDRO PORTAL  |  Miami Herald
    The state party raised $3.5 million at the dinner where the president spoke.
  4. Donald Trump walks with his wife, Melania, after speaking to the press at the Ritz-Carlton August 26, 2012 in Sarasota, Florida. Trump accepted the Statesman of the Year Award at the Sarasota GOP dinner ahead of the Republican Nation Convention in Tampa. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) 150868157 EDWARD LINSMIER  |  Getty Images
    Trump couldn’t get prime stage time at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. So he and the Sarasota Republican Party staged their own event the night before. What happened next changed history.
  5. Paul Congemi, 62, filed paperwork this week for his fourth St. Petersburg mayoral bid. Last election he earned 188 votes. EVE EDELHEIT  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The 2021 primary election is 628 days away.
  6. Mayor Rick Kriseman on Wednesday said he will not allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore splitting their season between the Tampa Bay area and Montreal prior to the 2027 expiration of the team's lease of Tropicana Field. CHRIS URSO  |  Times
    Politicians on both sides of the bay weigh in on St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s decision to cease talks with the team.
  7. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a news conference about the Zika virus, Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016 in Doral, Fla.The CDC has advised pregnant women to avoid travel to the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood where mosquitoes are apparently transmitting Zika directly to humans. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
    Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said he wants to meet with Interior Department officials before green-lighting Katharine MacGregor as the second-highest Interior Department official.
  8. Transgender student Drew Adams speaks with reporters outside of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Adam's fight over school restrooms came before a federal appeals court Thursday, setting the stage for a groundbreaking ruling. Adams, who has since graduated from Nease High in Ponte Vedra, Fla., won a lower court ruling last year ordering the St. Johns County school district to allow him to use the boys' restroom. The district has since appealed. RON HARRIS  |  AP
    The closely watched case of Drew Adams, once a high school student in Florida, is heard by a three-judge panel in Atlanta.
  9. An example of the type of white railway markings the Florida Department of Transportation plans on installing on the either side of more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state. Florida Department of Transportation
    The department will paint new markings on more than 4,000 railway crossings in the state.
  10. Previous competitions did not round up a lot of the invasive snakes