Gov. DeSantis to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu next week

Jerusalem's Jewish Quarter. MathKnight, Wikimedia Commons photo

Update: Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried has already arrived in Tel Aviv, her office said Thursday. She’d announced plans to land ahead of the main travel party to begin research into agriculture and citrus, water efficiency, and cannabis. Fried, a Democrat, is the first Jewish woman elected to the Florida Cabinet.

Gov. Ron DeSantis will confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the May 25-31 trip he’ll lead next week with the Florida Cabinet to Israel, the governor’s office announced Thursday.

Their meeting is scheduled for next Thursday, May 30, the group’s  last working day in the Holy Land, following a “cultural visit to the Old City of Jerusalem,” according to an updated itinerary. The document doesn’t disclose the time of day for any of the events listed – including what it now describes as a “ceremonial” Cabinet meeting Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier, the governor’s staff indicated that the meeting would be an official Cabinet meeting, but changed it after news organizations and the Florida First Amendment Foundation raised questions about public access and the state’s Sunshine Law.

Netanyahu, whose Likud government won re-election in April, has promised formal annexation of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and recently annexed the Golan Heights. At the moment, he is maneuvering to fend off an indictment on corruption allegations. He has openly aligned his government with the GOP and President Trump.

Republican DeSantis, meanwhile, aspires to be the most pro-Israel governor in this country. In January, he led the Cabinet in sanctions against Airbnb over its removal of listings for homes in the West Bank. He promised during his campaign last fall to make Israel the site of his first trade mission.

Officials had indicated the governor and Cabinet members, who oversee vast aspects of state government including environmental and insurance regulation and investments, would conduct a formal working meeting at the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Subsequently, an agenda released Wednesday includes no items requiring formal action but does feature this disclaimer: “This agenda does not involve the composition of any collegial body consisting of the governor and Cabinet as a board, commission, or otherwise.” The Cabinet last met to do substantial business on April 2.

Next week’s itinerary includes a series of business meetings, receptions, and roundtables focused on technology, tourism, and water quality.

The governor’s office has been stingy about details of the trip, notwithstanding repeated requests by news organizations including the Florida Phoenix. The Phoenix is still waiting on documents under a public records request filed on April 16, including information about what the trip will cost and details of travel arrangements.

On Wednesday – one week in advance of the May 29 Cabinet meeting – DeSantis aides disclosed that the travel party would include 98 people, including the governor and Cabinet; 20 state agency chiefs and other officials; 27 corporate leaders and lobbyists; 24 academics; and three Jewish religious leaders. Five legislators and two mayors will participate.

Also attending will be Matthew Bogdanoff, director of the Florida Republican Jewish Coalition; Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America; Lior Haiat, Israeli consul general in Miami; and Lisa McClaskey, the consulate’s director of political affairs.

State government will pay travel expenses for 24 people, including the governor and Cabinet members and their aides, plus other state officials who’ll attend. Everyone else, including the legislators, are paying their own way, according to the governor’s press office. Again, the office has not disclosed what that will cost.

See previous Phoenix coverage: 98 people joining Gov. DeSantis and Cabinet on Israel trip starting Saturday – here are the details; Here’s who is going with Gov. Ron DeSantis and Cabinet to Israel Saturday; Gov. DeSantis, FL Cabinet fly out Sat. on 80-person trip to Israel: Who’s paying? Who’s going? His office won’t sayGov. DeSantis and Cabinet are holding a meeting in Israel in 4 weeks. But still, no details on what it will cost and what they will be doingGovernor’s office releases bare-bones agenda for May 25 Israel tripPublic may be able to “attend” May FL Cabinet meeting in Israel via video, Attorney General Moody saysSouth Fla legislators joining Gov. DeSantis, Cabinet, 75 others on Israel trip May 25Gov. DeSantis talks about his God, hypes upcoming Florida Cabinet meeting in IsraelOne lawmaker says she will pay her own way for Israel trip with Gov. DeSantis and Cabinet

Michael Moline
Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal. He began his career covering the Florida Capitol for United Press International. More recently, he wrote for Florida Politics.

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