Florida Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted his strong ties to Israel in his opening remarks to a group of some 4,000 Evangelical Christians at the National Religious Broadcasting convention in Orlando on Monday evening.
The governor, who is expected to announce a run for president of the United States officially this week, told a captive audience that gave him more than one standing ovation: “When I took office, I promised to make Florida the most pro-Israel state in the United States, and we have been able to deliver on that promise.”
DeSantis was in Israel last month and spoke at The Jerusalem Post conference celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday.
“If anyone questions anything [about Israel], bring them there, open the Bible and walk the steps,” DeSantis said.
“My son for Christmas wanted more than anything a slingshot so he could be like David. So I took him to the City of David, and you can even see where David and Goliath had their battle. It brings the biblical story to life.”
DeSantis touted his efforts to aim at anyone who seeks to marginalize or destroy the Jewish State, such as his successful battle against Airbnb, which had eliminated approximately 200 listings in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria. DeSantis put the company on the state’s Scrutinized Companies List, forcing it to change its policy.
As governor, I have an obligation to oppose policies that unfairly target Israel,” he said in 2019. “Once Airbnb eliminated their discriminatory policy toward Israel, we decided to remove them from the Scrutinized Companies List. I am pleased with this outcome.”
“BDS is DOA [dead on arrival],” DeSantis cheered on the NRB stage to another standing ovation.
DeSantis was one of the strongest supporters of moving the US Embassy to Israel’s capital and even came to Jerusalem as a congressman to scout out locations in the Holy City. During his NRB speech, he also told how his children were baptized with water from Israel’s Galilee.
“God bless you all, God bless the United States, and God bless the free state of Florida,” DeSantis declared to cheers.Jewish visitors to the NRB, such as settler leader David Rubin, author of Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn From Israel,” described the speech as a “wink to religiously traditional Christians and Jews, with its remarkable emphasis on family, faith and education.
“These are all values that have been the tried and true backbone of Jewish life for centuries,” Rubin told the Post.
“Those traditional values are on the rise in Israel, while in America, they are under assault.”
DeSantis vs. Trump
DeSantis’s most significant competition for the presidency is former US president Donald Trump, who, according to the most recent Real Clear Politics poll, has a 36-point lead over DeSantis as Republican voters’ preferred choice.Trump won the previous election through the support of Evangelical Christians and endorsed DeSantis in 2018, which analysts said lifted DeSantis to victory.
Now that DeSantis is expected to set his sights on the White House, Trump has been one of DeSantis’ harshest critics, including telling reporters recently that the Florida politician was politically “dead as a doornail” before receiving his endorsement for governor in 2018.
In an interview last month with the Post, two top Christian academics – Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University and co-chairman of the Western Conservative Summit, and Dr. Donald Sweeting, chancellor of Colorado Christian University – said DeSantis is the chosen candidate of “educated Evangelicals.”“My students would lean more toward DeSantis,” Hunt said.
Similarly, in an interview at the end of last year, Dr. Mike Evans, who helped mobilize the Christian community that put Trump into the White House for the first time, told the Post that, although “Donald Trump was the best American president for the State of Israel in my lifetime,” he was not sure that Evangelicals would collectively stand behind the previous president this time around.
DeSantis is considered one of the most conservative Republican candidates, hence his popularity among that Christian voter base. He recently signed what is known as the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” which prohibits abortions once the unborn child has a detectable heartbeat. Trump had said that he thought the legislation might be too extreme.
DeSantis has been at the forefront of the battle for conservative education and anti-LGBTQ and gender fluidity policies, most recently banning gender-affirming medical care.
“Governor DeSantis’s extraordinarily pro-Israel speech at the NRB conference makes it clear that the road to the Republican nomination runs through Jerusalem,” added Rabbi Tuly Weisz, whose organization is a co-sponsor of this year’s NRB. “For Evangelicals, no one could do more for Israel than president Trump, but DeSantis made a strong case that his support for Israel would be just as resolute.”