As Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Gov. Charlie Crist prepare to face off in the 2020 midterm gubernatorial election, both men have been deemed pro-Israel and supportive of the overall Jewish community in the state of Florid, and pray that the important voting bloc supports their respective gubernatorial campaigns.
Of the 5.7 million and 10 million Jews currently residing in the U.S., there are some 657,095 residing in Florida, ranking the state in the Top 10 of states where a significant amount of Jewish Americans reside.
This past weekend, Gov. DeSantis held a campaign event at The Shul of Bal Harbour— one of the largest and most influential synagogues in the U.S.—where he outlined his administration’s efforts to support the nation of Israel and the Jewish community.
DeSantis mentioned that his very first foreign trade mission was to Israel, where he was able to strengthen the ties between Florida and Israel, as well as signed the first ever ant-BDS movement measure in the nation and strengthened the ties between the state and the state of Israel.
“This historic mission has been the prelude to future prosperity and partnership between Florida and Israel,” said Governor DeSantis. “This week, we established an unprecedented number of alliances in science, business and academia. We affirmed our solidarity with Israelis and resolved to give no quarter to anti-Semitism. Returning to Florida, we bring with us prospects for investment, high-wage jobs, water conservation and innovative ideas to keep our schools and communities safe. We also carry home a renewed belief that peace, freedom, and democracy are essential to our quality of life and are to be championed, cherished and never taken for granted.”
During the trip, DeSantis recruited new and extensive business between Florida and Israel, which he also pointed to during his address in Bal Harbour.
EL Al Airlines, Israel’s national airline, has recently moved its headquarters to South Florida.
DeSantis mentioned that there were currently two Israeli businesses working with Florida, including one that was helping with water cleanup in Lake Okeechobee.
DeSantis, who also spearheaded the effort to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem while a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, called the area of Judea and Samaria “disputed” land, saying that he was the first elected official to hold an event in that territory.
"If we get tough on the tax dollars, recognize Jerusalem, that's sending a clear signal to the Palestinian Arabs that we're not going to reward them for bad behavior any longer," DeSantis said.
DeSantis's efforts to protect Jewish Americans is beyond reproach, and when the Champlain South condominium tower collapsed just blocks from the Bal Harbour synagogue, it was DeSantis who was lead the bipartisan recovery efforts. The Prime Minister of Israel first reached out to Gov. DeSantis and not President Joe Biden shortly after the building collapse. Israel sent a search and rescue team to help find trapped victims.
“We are not going to let the Jewish community be some piñata in Florida where people feel free to attack,” said DeSantis.
But while DeSantis is seen as the most visible supporter of the Jewish community from Florida, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has also expressed his support for Israel in the past.
During an interview with the Jewish Insider in 2017, the media outlet stated that Crist also “selected the Jewish state as his first trade mission.”
Crist made the trip to Israel with former Congressman and now-lobbyist Robert Wexler.
“We went to Tel Aviv, which reminded me of Florida because you are right on the coast,” Crist said. “I love Israel. The food is amazing.”
Crist also said that he divested state retirement plans that would somehow benefit or favor Iran.
“I was the first governor who did that. The State of Florida and the State of Israel have a unique bond. Probably the most moving thing I did on the trade mission to Jerusalem was visit Yad Vashem. I love Judaism, anything that I can do to strengthen, protect and help. It’s a democracy surrounded by a lot of people who may not be all that friendly to Israel,” added Crist.
One interesting story coming from Crist, and something DeSantis probably would not utter if the same coincidence fell upon him, is that his Western Wall prayer may have prevented hurricanes from hitting Florida the year he travelled to Israel.
“So the night before, I was in my hotel room and I wrote out a prayer, and it was basically, ‘Dear G‑d, please protect Florida from storms and other difficulties—Charlie.’ And so I folded it up and went with Congressman Wexler and placed it in the wall as tradition dictates, and we got to December and there was no hurricane. Thank G‑d! I’m not going to Israel this spring, but there’s more to the story. I called Cong. Wexler—he goes to Israel frequently— and asked, ‘If you’re going to be going soon, please call me up and let me know so I can give you my prayer and you can be my ambassador to place in the Western Wall yet again to protect Florida.”—Gov. Charlie Crist.
Both DeSantis and Crist are staunch supports of Israel, but Crist has not yet denounce his Lt. Governor choice, Karla Hernandez-Mats, recent support for a statement criticizing President Donald Trump’s recognition that Jerusalem was the true capital of Israel.
Crist has yet to say whether he believes Jerusalem is the true capital of Israel. DeSantis on the other hand believes Jerusalem is the true capitol.
DeSantis is expected to win over most of the Jewish vote. The most recent Mason-Dixon poll has DeSantis leading Crist by 11 percentage points.