JERUSALEM -- After yesterday’s historic and controversial Florida Cabinet meeting in a U.S Embassy Annex, Gov. Ron DeSantis started his last day in Israel with a trip to Shaare Zedek Medical Center for a partnership signing ceremony between the University of Miami and Hebrew University.
At a news briefing, DeSantis rated the business mission a success so far, with a historic number of memorandum of understandings signed.
“We are doing a lot of business deals, which is important, but we’re also looking at education ties. That can be the seeds of important ideas,” DeSantis said.
He also talked about Israel’s position in the Mideast as the only country in the region that shares America’s values, noting it is a successful democracy with a strong economy.
“And yet their enemies play for keeps. If their enemies had the wherewithal to drive Israel into the sea, they would do it. And if Iran could wipe Israel off the map tomorrow, they would do it. We’ve got to know that’s out there and remain tough.”
From there he visited the Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center on Mount Herzl, where he also attended a wreath laying ceremony.
After that, he returned to the David Citadel Hotel for a roundtable on school safety and security.
From there the delegation goes to the City of David, the Western Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
DeSantis, meanwhile, will skip out on the trip to the City of David. Instead, he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The meeting comes at a point of high political drama for Netanyahu and the Israeli government.
Netanyahu failed to form a new governing coalition on Wednesday, a stunning setback that will trigger a second election just seven weeks after the Israeli leader’s Likud party appeared poised to command a majority in parliament.
Just weeks ago, Netanyahu, who faces a likely indictment on corruption charges in the coming months, was headed for a record fifth term as Israel’s prime minister. But the conservative Israeli leader’s future is now in doubt after he was unable to resolve a dispute between Likud’s two potential coalition partners, despite a surprising last-minute show of support from President Donald Trump.
"Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to elections.” Netanyahu said Wednesday, according to Israel’s Channel 12 TV News.
Israel’s national assembly, the Knesset, then voted to dissolve itself after it became clear that Netanyahu would be unable to bridge the gap between a secular ultranationalist party and ultra-Orthodox factions, according to local media reports.
After the meeting, DeSantis hopes to join the delegation at the Western Wall, where he will put a prayer in the wall for no hurricanes.
Deirdre Shesgreen of USA TODAY contributed to this report.
USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA Statehouse Reporter Jeffrey Schweers is accompanying Gov. Ron DeSantis and his 90-plus member delegation on his Israeli business development mission this week as a pool reporter for the Florida Society of News Editors. Schweers will provide regular reports and updates from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem for Florida’s newspapers. Follow him on Twitter for updates @jeffschweers.