In Israel, Ron DeSantis Promotes His Foreign Policy Credentials

Ron DeSantis, the Florida governor and a likely contender for the Republican presidential nomination, expressed strong support for Israel during a brief visit to Jerusalem on Thursday, as he promoted his diplomatic credentials in a country considered crucial to any U.S. president’s foreign policy portfolio.

Mr. DeSantis declined once again to confirm his candidacy for the presidential race in 2024, but he used a speech and subsequent news briefing to showcase his experience and interest in Israeli affairs, an issue that his chief rival, Donald J. Trump, once made his own.

The governor, a foreign policy novice, stressed his track record of support for Israel and for Floridian Jews, highlighting his efforts to combat antisemitism in Florida and build business ties between his state and Israel.

“Maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been a priority for me during my time in elective office,” Mr. DeSantis said in speech at a conference hosted by The Jerusalem Post, a right-leaning English-language newspaper. The event was attended by leading right-wing figures, including David M. Friedman, who was Mr. Trump’s ambassador to Israel; and Miriam Adelson, a longtime Israeli American supporter of Mr. Trump.

“Our alliance with Israel rests on unique cultural and religious affinities and Judeo-Christian values that trace back thousands of years to the Holy Land and which have been essential to the American experiment,” Mr. DeSantis said.

Mr. DeSantis also met Thursday morning with Isaac Herzog, Israel’s figurehead president, and said that he would also get together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Mr. Trump had an initially strong relationship with Mr. Netanyahu, but that ebbed after Mr. Trump left office.

While never mentioning Mr. Trump by name, Mr. DeSantis on Thursday tried to differentiate himself from his rival by noting how he had pushed the Trump administration to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, months before Mr. Trump decided to do so.

“I was an outspoken proponent and advocate of relocating our embassy,” Mr. DeSantis said to loud cheers from the audience. “We were trying to cajole the previous administration to do it,” he added.

But some journalists fired in questions without being called on, including one reporter who asked Mr. DeSantis about his time as an officer at the American base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States held people suspected of terrorism.

The reporter, who did not give his name, accused Mr. DeSantis of having attended the force-feeding of prisoners at the base. Mr. DeSantis replied: “Do you honestly believe that’s credible? So this is 2006, I’m a junior officer. Do you honestly think that they would have remembered me from Adam? Of course not.”

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