FULL TEXT: Florida Gov. DeSantis praises rebirth of Israel in ’48 as ‘momentous event,’ says US & Israel must stand strong against ‘apocalyptic’ regime in Iran
Read his keynote address to conference celebrating 75th anniversary of Israel’s miraculous rebirth in 1948
JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – The following is a full transcript of the speech made by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis today at a conference held at the Museum of Tolerance. The conference was organized and sponsored by the Jerusalem Post. This transcript was lightly edited for clarity.
[Standing ovation] Thank you. Thank you so much. Well, we appreciate that.
Casey and I are really honored to be in the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish people, the great city of Jerusalem, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Israel's independence.
I want to thank Larry Mizel for inviting me, and congratulations on this great project here, the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem. What a remarkable achievement.
I'd also like to thank Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog. We were able to meet and talk, and I appreciate him making time for me.
Mayor Lion, thank you for your comments. Great to see you.
I would also like to recognize our great former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Thank you, David.
And Casey’s and my friend, the great Dr. Miriam Adelson. Thank you so much for being here.
So, Israel is more than 3,000 years old, and yet 75 years young.
Throughout [the] 2,000 years of exile and dispersion of the Jewish people, the bond between the Jewish people and this Holy Land was never severed.
Both the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate recognized the historic connection of the Jewish people with the Land of Israel and acknowledged the compelling basis for reconstituting their national home right here in the Holy Land.
ISRAEL WAS REBORN in 1948 AGAINST ALL ODDS
Nevertheless, when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of the modern State of Israel 75 years ago, he did so knowing that the odds were long.
How could a ragtag group of Sabras, refugees, and Holocaust survivors possibly prevail against powerful Arab armies determined to snuff out the Jewish state in its infancy?
The odds were about as long as the odds that a young shepherd boy armed with rocks and a slingshot could slay a giant.
But just as David defeated Goliath, the newly minted Israelis beat the odds, won their independence, and preserved their right to self-determination.
Israel's victory meant the long-standing dream had become reality – a national homeland for the Jewish people in the land of Israel.
Now, Winston Churchill noted the establishment of the Jewish state was – quote – “an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective not of a generation, or a century, but in the perspective of 1,000, 2,000, or even 3,000 years.”
A MOMENTOUS DEVELOPMENT IN WORLD HISTORY
“This,” Churchill continued, “is a standard of temporal values – or time values – which seems very much out of accord with the perpetual click-clack of our rapidly changing moods and of the age in which we live.”
“This,” Churchill concluded, “is an event in world history.”
And Winston Churchill was right.
Israel's rebirth has been a momentous development in world history.
Reconstituting the Jewish state, though, was just the initial challenge.
Maintaining a democracy in the heart of the Middle East has been no easy task, and Israel has faced perhaps more challenges than any country has in the ensuing 75 years after independence.
We saw the momentous victory in the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967.
We saw a War of Attrition waged by Egypt and other Arab states in the ensuing years.
We saw a war on Yom Kippur.
We saw Israel eliminate Iraq's nuclear reactor.
We've seen intifadas and the increase and rise of Palestinian Arab terrorism.
We've seen the targeting of Israel by international organizations and by movements such as Boycott, Divest, and Sanction – “BDS.”
And of course, hanging over all this is the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, hell-bent on the complete destruction of the Jewish state.
ISRAEL STANDS TALL AS BEACON OF FREEDOM IN TROUBLED REGION
And yet, through all these challenges, Israel stands tall as a beacon of freedom in a troubled region, an engine of economic growth and opportunity, and a center of innovation and technology that is the envy of the world.
Israel is also one of America's most valued and trusted allies.
Maintaining a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been a priority for me during my time in elective office, and I know it's been a priority for the overwhelming majority of the American people.
Now, the United States was the first nation to recognize the independence of Israel, and President Truman did so within minutes of Israel's own declaration.
Our alliance with Israel rests on unique cultural and religious affinities – the Judeo-Christian values that trace back thousands of years to the Holy Land and which have been essential to the American experiment.
When I was a U.S. congressman, I represented the city of Saint Augustine in Florida, which is the oldest city in continuous operation in the United States, since the 1500s.
And I used to think to myself, “Man, our country was founded in 1776. This was 200 years plus prior to that. How historic! How old!”
Well, when you walk here in Israel, that vantage point changes because we're talking about thousands of years all the way back to the beginning of recorded history.
History that the vast majority of Americans have familiarity with.
DESANTIS FAMILY BAPTIZED ALL THREE CHILDREN WITH WATER FROM THE SEA OF GALILEE
And I can tell you a story about my wife and I on – actually, it was her second trip with me to Israel. I was a U.S. Congressman at the time. We did not yet have kids. And so, one of the things that Casey did when we were visiting the Sea of Galilee is to take an empty bottle of water and fill it up with water from the Sea of Galilee so that when we did have kids, we would use that water from here in Israel to baptize our kids.
And so, our first daughter was born. My first daughter was born in 2016. No problem. We used the water.
Our son was born in 2018, as I was running for governor, so we decided to wait till after the election and do his baptism in the governor's residence in Tallahassee.
Following my swearing in as governor in January of 2019, we used the water for that.
Unbeknownst to us, there are people that come clean up after you when you're in a Governor's Residence. We weren't used to that in our own home, and all they saw was a half-used bottle of water. They didn't know the difference. And so, the water got spilled out and we no longer had any.
However, a week or two into my administration, we were down in Boca Raton at a synagogue. And I had announced that while we didn't have another bun in the oven, we did not have any more water from the Sea of Galilee.
Within 24 hours, there were people here in Israel digging into the Sea of Galilee, and I was sent all the way from Israel with this beautiful, big glass jar filled with water from the Sea of Galilee.
That sat on my desk in the governor's office in Tallahassee until our third child was born and baptized. And we used that water to do it.
But just think about it. In what other country in the whole world could you have a story like that? You can't.
The history and the connection are simply incomparable.
IN CONGRESS, WAS OUTSPOKEN ADVOCATE OF MOVING U.S. EMBASSY TO JERUSALEM
And that's one of the reasons why when I was a U.S. Congressman, I was an outspoken proponent and advocate of relocating our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
When we were trying to cajole the administration – the previous [Trump-Pence] administration to do it, I actually launched a very small delegation over here. We looked at a bunch of different sites. We did a big press conference, announced that this was going to happen. We were confident and there was a plethora of possibilities to be able to do it.
I chaired a major Congressional hearing in the fall of 2017 leading up to the decision –probably the most attended Congressional hearing of my Congressional career.
And both sides of the aisle acknowledge that this is something that needed to be done.
Part of the thing that really was compelling to me is you see how important these religious sites are to people, not just Jews, but Christians and Muslims.
And I can tell you, with Israeli sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem, people have the ability to practice their religion freely. They have the ability to visit those sites freely. That would just factually not be true if that were in other hands.
And so, we thought it was very important for that. We also just thought it was important to honor the historical record.
Jerusalem is, in fact, going back thousands of years, the eternal capital of the Jewish people. U.S. policy should recognize the truth.
We have – the U.S. and Israel – many common interests.
IRANIAN REGIME HOLDS “APOCALYPTIC IDEOLOGY” THAT POSES EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO ISRAEL AND THE UNITED STATES
We also have many common enemies and there's perhaps no adversary more hostile to both Israel and the United States than the Islamist regime in Iran.
As a U.S. Navy officer, I was deployed to Iraq during the Iraq war. And at the time we were stationed in places like Fallujah and Ramadi. These are Sunni Arab areas in the western part of Iraq, where really the al-Qaeda-in-Iraq movement had started.
That was really the task, to put that down. And U.S. forces did a very good job of doing that.
What I noticed, though, as the deployment went on, is that the overwhelming majority of the casualties that we were starting to see in Iraq at that time were not in Sunni Arab areas. That was not at the hands of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq.
It was at the hands of Shia militias that were funded and controlled by the regime in Iran.
And they were responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. service members during the Iraq campaign and, of course, were responsible for killing hundreds of U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, when they bombed the Marine Corps barracks.
And so, since its inception in 1979, the Islamist regime in Iran has viewed the United States as its foremost enemy and Israel probably close behind.
And so, we share that.
And if you look at the challenges that we see – as a matter of strategic [challenges] in this region – Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons creates a risk unlike you've not seen in this region.
Their ideology – an apocalyptic ideology – combined with the ability to use humanity's worst weapons, represents a threat, an existential threat, to the State of Israel, and it represents a threat to the United States of America.
OPPOSED IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL IN 2015
I'm just proud that as a Congressman – like many of you, you know – we saw through this many years ago when they tried to do this Iranian nuclear deal.
We said that all it would do was empower Iran.
And guess what happened?
They [the Iranian regime] got billions and billions of dollars flooded into their coffers.
What did they use that money to do?
Did they make the citizenry's lives better in Iran?
Of course not.
They use that to fund terrorism all around the Middle East.
And so, we opposed it.
The deal failed.
And I think it's important going forward that we learn from that and learn that you cannot approach them in a way that is going to empower the regime.
You must hold the regime accountable, and that's what U.S. policy should do.
FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION AGAINST ISRAEL AT THE U.N. AND “BDS” MOVEMENT
The U.S. has been proud to stand with Israel in the face of Israel being singled out for unprecedented and unfair international criticism and political attacks.
[Consider the number of] U.N. resolutions since 2015 – the U.N. has passed 125 condemnatory resolutions against Israel, but only 55 such resolutions for the entire rest of the world.
How could you possibly justify that type of action?
And if you look at the movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction the State of Israel – so-called “BDS” – we in Florida have stood against that from day one of our administration.
It's fine to criticize the policy of any government.
You can criticize Israel policy.
You can criticize the state of Israel.
But when your focus is only on one Jewish state and you hold them up to a different standard than you hold up every other country in the world, and indeed, when you work to excuse bad conduct from so many rogue regimes throughout the rest of the world – when you have that frame of reference – that is anti-Semitism.
You are targeting the one Jewish state for disfavored treatment.
So, in Florida, we made it very clear even before I took office – this was when AirBNB was going to penalize folks here in Israel – and we made it very clear that that's not going to stand with the State of Florida.
We made clear that in Florida, “BDS” is DOA.
And we proceeded to make sure that our pension funds would not be investing in any of these companies.
So, we put Airbnb on our disfavored companies list.
And guess what?
They reversed the policy.
What we did worked.
Florida has led the way on combating the scourge of anti-Semitism.
FIGHTING ANTI-SEMITISM AND PROMOTING HOLOCAUST EDUCATION
My first year as governor, when we were here on our trade mission, I signed legislation to combat anti-Semitism in our public universities.
And that's been a huge problem throughout our country.
In Florida, we treat anti-Semitism the way we treat racism.
And so, if it's not appropriate to attack someone on the basis of their race – which it’s not – it should not also be okay somehow to engage in anti-Semitic tropes.
And so, in Florida, we've stood on the side of combating anti-Semitism.
As was mentioned, we've provided millions and millions of dollars since I've been governor for security at Jewish day schools.
We understand there are threats and we're not going to let the bad guys win when it comes to our schools.
We've also led a nationwide effort to enhance education standards for the Holocaust, and we've funded millions and millions of dollars for Holocaust museums throughout Florida.
It may not be quite at the level that you see here in Jerusalem, but it's important that we do that.
I was able to give many months ago a Florida Medal of Freedom to a man named Ben Ferencz, who was then the last surviving prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials. He was 103 years old at the time. He's recently passed away, but he led an extraordinary life. But when you see somebody like Ben Ferencz, you realize the importance of Holocaust education.
The generation that survived the Holocaust is, as the years go by, passing from the scenes. It's not going to be too long where we're not going to have any living, breathing firsthand accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust. And I believe that people who forget the history are doomed to repeat it.
And when we say, “Never Again,” we mean, Never Again.
In Florida, we've also embraced the freedom of parents of all faiths to choose the best school for their children. But that includes Jewish parents who want their kids to get a Jewish education. You get scholarships in the state of Florida, and you can make that decision as a parent to send your child to Jewish day school.
EXPANDING ECONOMIC TIES BETWEEN ISRAEL AND FLORIDA
We're proud in Florida of the strong economic ties that we have with the State of Israel, as was mentioned.
We did a historic trade mission in 2019 where we brought businesses, folks from our universities.
It was really an unprecedented mobilization.
Yes, we did [hold a] cabinet meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.
We signed our legislation to combat anti-Semitism.
We visited the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
We even held a public event at Ariel University.
EXPERIENCED THE POWER OF PRAYER AT THE WESTERN WALL
We brought the delegation for prayer at the Western Wall.
The only thing I can tell you is my prayer in 2019 was that we would be spared the upcoming hurricane season in the State of Florida.
And we were in a situation as we got in the height of hurricane season, you had a monstrous hurricane barreling east – or barreling west – towards the Florida peninsula. Hurricane Dorian. It was a Category Five. A very strong Category Five. And it was headed basically going to ram right into our state.
Well, at that time, when it was on that track, people were saying, “Well, God must not be listening to the Governor because we may be getting rammed here.”
Well, I can tell you the storm was heading our way.
But it slowed down. It turned 90 degrees and went north and never impacted our coast.
And so, I'm chalking it up to the prayer I put in the Western Wall.
People can offer whatever rationale they want.
MORE ISRAELI BUSINESSES ARE WORKING IN FLORIDA
But because of that trip, we now have Israeli businesses engaged in all kinds of parts of Florida and Florida's economy.
We've got a big lake in the middle of Florida, in southern Florida, Lake Okeechobee.
It has sometimes, because there's runoff from fertilizer, all this stuff creates algal blooms when the federal government and the Army Corps disperse that in different streams, that's not good. So, we've worked to combat that in a variety of ways.
Well, we have an Israeli company in Lake Okeechobee combating the algae that's growing with their technology.
We have companies from Israel who are involved in our medical space.
We actually have more announcements about that later this afternoon.
But they're involved in their path-breaking research on things like Alzheimer's and helping with different types of brain tumors.
So, this is something that's very significant.
We have a great relationship with Israel with respect to space.
Florida is the epicenter of space launches in the entire world.
And Israel now has a big part of doing that.
And so, this has been a great relationship with the State of Florida.
It's also been a great economic relationship between the United States and Florida. And so, we're very proud of those ties. And I think those ties are only going to grow stronger in the future.
We're going to be the only state that has two direct flights to Ben Gurion Airport – Miami and Fort Lauderdale.
El Al [Israel’s national airline] is going to do both.
So, the task before us as Americans is standing strongly and forthrightly with Israel and with the Jewish people.
We must support Israel's right to defend itself, and that includes strong military and intelligence cooperation.
It also includes supporting Israel, maintaining its qualitative military superiority with systems such as Iron Dome.
We must also ensure that, however, the future political winds may blow, the U.S. embassy will always be right here in Jerusalem. That's never going to change.
The U.S. must defend Israel against disfavored treatment by the United Nations and other international bodies and agenda-driven international advocacy organizations.
And we must reject those who reject Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.
That is anti-Semitism.
We must also in America respect Israel's right to make its own decisions about its own governance.
You're a smart country. You figure it out.
It shouldn't be for us to butt into these important issues.
WANTS TO SEE AN EXPANSION OF THE ABRAHAM ACCORDS
The U.S. should also recommit to the framework of the Abraham Accords and build a strong alliance between the U.S., Sunni Arab states, and Israel against the threat posed by the Iranian regime.
I recently met in my office in Tallahassee with ambassadors from Israel and the UAE [the United Arab Emirates].
A joint meeting between those two ambassadors and the governor of Florida? That would have been unthinkable just a short time ago.
So, look at all the progress that's been made.
We should focus on common interests and future opportunities, not on past grievances.
The U.S. can work with countries to advance mutual interests with its natural partners and stand by its allies.
This vision for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship is one that enhances regional cooperation, stability, and security.
So, let's hope that the next 75 years will be just as good as these previous and that people will look back and identify the strong partnership between the U.S. and Israel as a major factor in the continuing vitality of the Jewish state.
“IN ISRAEL, IN ORDER TO BE A REALIST, YOU MUST BELIEVE IN MIRACLES”
Now, you look back 75 years, I'm reminded of a quote from David Ben-Gurion that said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles.”
And if you think about what this region looked like prior to modern Jewish settlement, this was not exactly the land of opportunity.
When Mark Twain visited in the 19th century, he described the Land of Israel as a hopeless, dreary, heartbroken land.
And yet, against all odds, the people of Israel have taken a barren desert and transformed it into an oasis of freedom and innovation, a vibrant society in the heart of one of the world's toughest neighborhoods.
Israel's success should provide us all with a sense of hope.
And I'll just conclude by alluding to the very founding of the United States and really our best values and how we've always supported the importance of religious freedom.
In 1790, George Washington traveled to Newport, Rhode Island, shortly after Rhode Island had ratified the U.S. Constitution.
They were one of the last states to do so.
And he received a letter on his visit from the local Hebrew congregation, and the letter praised Washington and America for their dedication to preserving and protecting religious freedom.
Washington responded to the letter the following day by noting, quote, “It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
I agree with President Washington.
God bless the United States and God bless the people of Israel.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.