Gov. Ron DeSantis still has not released details of his planned May 25 trip to Israel with what he says will be 75 people, including Florida Cabinet members, but one legislator says she is paying her own way.
Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Broward County “is paying for everything personally” including air fare to Israel and hotels, campaign aide Claire VanSusteren said.
Republican House member Randy Fine of Brevard County and Democratic Rep. Joe Geller of Broward also have confirmed plans to join the trip.
In response to questions from the Phoenix, VanSusteren said that Book hopes to learn about school safety, health care policy, water resource management, and technology. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas shootings happened in Book’s home county, and she helped pass school safety legislation that the National Rifle Association opposed last year.
“Israel is an innovator when it comes to keeping their children and families safe, and Sen. Book hopes to have an opportunity to bring this knowledge back to protect Florida families,” VanSusteren said.
Israel also is a leading producer of generic pharmaceuticals and an innovator in trauma care, she said.
“Additionally, she is focused on learning about technology and infrastructure development, if given the chance,” VanSusteren said.
“With antisemitism on the rise, the symbolism of going to Israel for a trade mission and having a Cabinet meeting while there is powerful and says that Florida stands against religious intolerance and hate.”
The Phoenix filed a public records request on April 16 seeking documents about what the group will be doing, how they will be getting there, and how much it will cost. But the governor’s office hadn’t released any as of Tuesday. DeSantis’ press office says officials are digging through a backlog of public records requests in the order received.
Update: DeSantis said during a news conference in Miami that he will confer with the Israeli government about safety but still plans to make the trip, notwithstanding military clashes with Gaza over the weekend.
“We don’t want to put anyone in danger but, hopefully, everything will be good. We’re going to work with the Israelis to make sure that it’s a good time to go. If it’s not, then we’ll reschedule it,” he said. “But we haven’t been told that we have to reschedule it.”
DeSantis denied that Gaza is “occupied” territory, saying: “They govern themselves there, and they choose terrorism rather than trying to make life better for their people. I think it’s totally unacceptable, and I stand behind Israel 100 percent.”