DeSantis and Florida Cabinet wrap up Israel trip

Florida governor meets with Netanyahu in Israel

By Mike Vasilinda - Tallahassee Bureau Chief, Associated Press

JERUSALEM - It has been a whirlwind trade mission to Israel for Gov. Ron DeSantis and about 100 other Floridians on the trip with him. 

The 4½-day trip has been a nonstop affair, filled with 12- and 16-hour days. 

The schedule for the governor’s last day in Israel was turned upside down when a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was scheduled at the last minute.

"The relationship's good. He went over some of the threats Israel faces and the map of the Middle East and showed the pockets of ISIS,” DeSantis said.

The meeting came the day after Netanyahu failed to assemble a governing coalition, sending the country into a political crisis.

"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."

The meeting prompted an Israeli journalist to ask whether the governor had his eye on the Oval Office.

"Certainly not in 2020, you can guarantee that,” DeSantis said.

Earlier Thursday, Israel's newly elected parliament dissolved itself and set another election date. The move came just 50 days after Netanyahu seemed to have cruised to re-election. Netanyahu conceded that he had failed to build a coalition government and pushed through legislation for a do-over.

After the meeting with Netanyahu, the governor placed two notes on the Western Wall, the holiest site for the Jewish people. The first asked God to spare the state of Florida from any hurricanes this year.

"So that would be wonderful if we could get through this hurricane season,” DeSantis said.

The second came from a young girl who lost her home in the Panhandle during Hurricane Michael.

“She had a note, asking me to put in the Western Wall,” DeSantis said. "So I did not read it, you know privacy, but I did put her note in the Western Wall.”

The governor also placed a wreath at a Holocaust museum Thursday to honor the 6 million Jews who lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps.

A roundtable discussion on school safety followed.

During the meeting, former Israeli Senior Intelligence Officer Uzi Shaya told the DeSantis that social media was emboldening terrorists and major companies were doing nothing about it.

"They're allowing well-known, blacklisted terrorist entities to use them knowingly,” Shaya said.

On top of all the agreements that have been signed throughout the trip, the journey to Israel has definitely solidified DeSantis' status as the most Israel-friendly governor in America.

DeSantis returns to Florida on Friday after a trade mission that included nearly 100 business leaders, elected officials and university officials. Several memorandums of understanding were signed with Israeli companies and universities.

The trip also included a meeting held by DeSantis and the state's three independently elected Cabinet members, which the open government watchdog group First Amendment Foundation and several news outlets argued was a violation of Florida law because it wasn't accessible to Floridians.

The governor leaves Israel at 7 a.m. local time, or 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Thursday, and will get back to the states midafternoon Friday.

Copyright 2019 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.