TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Friday he has turned down suggestions to travel to Israel, drawing a distinction between himself and blue state Democrats such as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
During an interview with conservative media outlet Newsmax, the Republican presidential candidate said it’s not “productive” for American politicians to visit Israel in the middle of its ongoing war with Hamas. His comments came days after President Joe Biden traveled to Israel and pledged ongoing American support for the country.
“I’ve been requested to, kind of, go over there. I know Biden went,” DeSantis said. “I’m not going to go over there at this time. I think that to have politicians going over there and trying to get — I think you’re just getting in the way of what’s going on. They’ve got a job to do. Our job here in the United States is to support them.”
DeSantis noted that other governors had traveled to Israel, although he did not mention either Hochul or Newsom by name. Newsom added a Friday visit to Israel ahead of a planned trip next week to China. Hochul, who visited the country earlier this week, called her trip a “solidarity mission” that she said would show that New York “will stand with Israel, today, tomorrow and forever.”
Florida has one of the largest Jewish populations in the United States. DeSantis has been a staunch defender of Israel during his time as governor and has already twice visited the nation during the past five years. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a week-long international trade mission that took him across the globe.
DeSantis has called for increased sanctions against Iran in the wake of the Hamas attacks, and state legislators are poised to enact the governor’s proposal in a special session that will be held between now and the end of the year. Jeremy Redfern, a spokesperson for the governor, said that the exact date and scope of the session were “being worked out between legislative leadership and our office.”
DeSantis also last week declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, a move that allowed him to tap into a state emergency fund that has been used to pay for charter flights from Israel. So far, chartered flights DeSantis helped organize transported more than 500 Americans back to the United States and more flights are expected over the weekend.
DeSantis has tried to draw a contrast between his efforts and those by the Biden administration, criticizing the State Department for shipping some Americans to Greece and requiring people to reimburse the federal government. His presidential campaign has even started selling t-shirts that say DeSantis Airways on them.
The Orlando Sentinel, however, reported on Friday that nearly two dozen Americans that Florida tried to evacuate were briefly stranded for a few days in Cyprus. Bryan Stern, CEO of Project Dynamo, put the blame on a vendor hired by Florida which was in a “rush to get a flight loaded and off the ground.”