Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is in Israel and was talking up his commitment to the Jewish state’s security on Thursday.
“We must reject those who reject Israel’s right to exist, which is antisemitism,” DeSantis told a conference organized by The Jerusalem Post and hosted by the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance. He had just signed a new law to strengthen Florida’s ability to combat antisemitism.
“When Israel is held to a different standard than any other country in the world, that is antisemitism,” he continued. “The task before us as Americans is standing strongly and forthrightly with Israel and with the Jewish people.”
The Florida governor, like most, if not all American presidential candidates before him, hailed Jerusalem as the “eternal capital of the Jewish people.”
He also urged Washington to stop interfering in Israel’s internal debate over judicial reform.
“You’re a smart country. You can figure it out. We shouldn’t butt into these important issues,” said DeSantis.
Catholics, Evangelicals and Trump
DeSantis is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination ahead of the 2024 election. Some believe that with his strongly conservative Catholic Christian background, DeSantis as president would go even further than Donald Trump in promoting Israeli interests and taking a firm pro-Israel stand on the international stage.
It’s a bit of an odd phenomenon for both Evangelicals and Israelis who have come to look to them as the Jewish state’s main Christian allies.
Whereas the mainstream Protestant Church has becoming increasingly liberal, there is a growing conservative movement in the Catholic Church, which in general was always more conservative on social issues of political importance. Because of this, more and more Evangelical voters are today willing to back Catholic politicians, and DeSantis is a major beneficiary of this.
Still, the Catholic Church has a sordid antisemitic past. Pope John Paul II did what he could to mend the rift with the Church’s “older siblings,” the Jews. But many Jews and Israelis remain wary.
A pro-Israel Catholic revolution?
Could a new breed of Catholics like DeSantis – strongly conservative and pro-Israel – accomplish the same kind of reconciliation with the Jewish nation that Evangelicals have in recent decades?
He’s certainly hitting all the right notes.
After becoming governor, DeSantis tweeted: “I promised to be the most pro-Israel Governor in America.”
In early 2019, DeSantis moved to sanction Airbnb over its decision to delist Jewish properties in the so-called “West Bank” in service to the anti-Israel movement Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
In a November 2022 address to the Jewish Republican Coalition, DeSantis noted that as governor he was “the first statewide elected official to do public events in Judea and Samaria,” adding that he “doesn’t care what the State Department says. They are not occupied territory, it is disputed territory. You gotta know the history.”
During his current visit, in addition to what he said above, DeSantis slammed the Biden administration’s perceived weakness vis-a-vis Iran, its nuclear program and the ayatollahs’ threats to win out Israel. Both the Netanyahu government and Israeli opposition parties have been critical of the Biden White House’s Iran policies.
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