Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is headed home after a five-day trip to Israel where he focused on trade partnerships.
DeSantis and a delegation of close to 100 business, government and education leaders landed in Tel Aviv on Sunday. His first action was to thank the Florida group that traveled with him.
“I am excited to be here in Israel with such a diverse group of Florida leaders who will proudly represent Florida and our great nation on this historic business development mission,” Gov. DeSantis said. “This mission will affirm our deep and ongoing partnership with Israel.”
On Monday, the governor’s first full day of meetings, DeSantis met with business leaders in military and defense tech, digital intelligence, financial services and agricultural research.
“Today, I met with several Israeli companies to discuss Florida’s business advantages and why they should invest in the Sunshine State,” said Gov. DeSantis. “Florida’s welcoming business climate and top-ranked university system make Florida the ideal location for investment and expanding business.”
One area of particular focus was the subject of school security, which has been a major issue for the Florida legislature since the Parkland shooting.
“It’s very clear that the security officers were armed. It was visible. It was a visible presence,” said Florida Sen. Lauren Book of the security measures at Ariel University. “They’re not so concerned about kids bringing weapons into schools as they are about folks around trying to cause harm.”
While at Ariel University, DeSantis signed a partnership between Florida Atlantic University and the Israeli school.
“This Memorandum of Understanding will result in partnerships between faculty, facilitate student exchange opportunities and initiate joint research projects in areas ranging from medicine and human health issues to disease such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and addiction research,” said FAU President John Kelly.
DeSantis also attended a recognition ceremony at the university, receiving an Honorary Fellowship Award for his dedication, leadership and commitment to the State of Israel. The governor’s office noted the award was “the highest honor ever to be bestowed on an American Governor by the University.”
“I promised to be the most pro-Israel governor in America and I sincerely thank Ariel University for presenting me the Honorary Fellowship Award,” he said. “This recognition means a lot and I am humbled to be the recipient. Let it be known that Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.”
Florida’s space industry was next on the governor’s agenda, signing a Memorandum of Understanding between Space Florida and the Israel Space Agency at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
“Space Florida is excited to collaborate with the Israel Space Agency in critical endeavors that mutually benefit both Israel and Florida,” said Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello. “As we highlight and seek solutions to bio-agriculture and water issues, the goal is to inspire and encourage students to seek scientific solutions and encouragement from this international partnership.”
On Tuesday, Gov. DeSantis continued working on more partnerships between Florida universities and Israeli schools, this time announcing a $5.2 million National Institute of Mental Health grant to fund a collaboration between Florida International University and Tel Aviv University researchers.
“We are confident that combining our respective areas of expertise will result in a new and effective treatment for children who suffer from social anxiety disorder,” said FIU psychology professor Jeremy Pettit, who heads the National Institute of Mental Health study.
Jared Moskowitz, the director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, toured the Gaza Strip and it’s emergency management center. He praised their program and signed an agreement with Israeli officials for help during natural disasters.
Wednesday was another milestone day for DeSantis, who ceremonially signed a bill that prohibits anti-Semitic speech at Florida public schools and universities.
“I do this because I feel obligated to because I am a Jew… all Jewish children are going to be protected because of what you are doing here today,” State Rep. Randy Fine told DeSantis. “We thank you for signing this bill.”
DeSantis also continued his call for the sanctions on Airbnb to be lifted in Florida after the company reversed its course on delisting West Bank properties.
“I don’t know what we have to do procedurally – if we take another vote or if we can do it unilaterally – but they shouldn’t be penalized for doing the right thing,” he said. “I never had it out for Airbnb. I never used Airbnb, but I always thought they had a neat thing.”
On his final day, Gov. DeSantis met with embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“I think Bibi has been a really strong leader. He gave a great speech when I was in Congress to a joint session,” DeSantis said after the meeting, according to a pool report arranged through the Florida Society of News Editors. “I told him after that speech I had so many constituents who said, ‘Heck, why don’t we elect Netanyahu here?’ So, if it doesn’t work out for him, I think he probably could get elected in the United States if he wanted to.”
DeSantis then visited the Western Wall, also known as the “Wailing Wall,” where he placed a prayer asking God to protect Florida from hurricanes.
“That would be wonderful, if we could get through this hurricane season,” he said.
DeSantis also visited the World Holocaust Remembrance Center for a wreath laying ceremony.
The governor vowed to return and continue building Florida’s relationship with Israel.
“We’ll be back. I’ll be happy to be back,” he said. “And I think the relationship is going to continue to foster.”
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