Trump rival Ron DeSantis expected to travel to Israel next month despite protests
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, considered Donald Trump’s main rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is expected to travel to Israel next month despite widespread protests in the country over Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial judicial reform.
The trip is purportedly a trade mission where he will address a "Celebrate the Face of Israel" event, co-sponsored by the Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem.
However, it is widely believed the Republican will use the visit to position himself to the right of Trump on Israel when it comes to relations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, offering his support regardless of condemnation outside and inside of Israel.
Trump was widely seen as the most pro-Israel US president ever, moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognising Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
"At a time of unnecessarily strained relations between Jerusalem and Washington, Florida serves as a bridge between the American and Israeli people," DeSantis said in a press release.
DeSantis is set to speak about "the importance of the US-Israel relationship - especially in difficult times," reported Haaretz.
The Florida governor is a staunch supporter of Israel, having visited four times already as a US politician. His track record includes calling for the US to defund the UN until the Security Council revoked a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine as a violation of international law.
The GOP frontrunner also criticised Trump for failing to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem six months before he made the decision and pushed hard for the White House to recognise the Golan as part of Israel.
DeSantis is widely expected to enter the 2024 race once the Florida Legislature concludes its current session in early May.
Israel, currently led by the most far-right governing coalition in its history, has been rocked by unprecedented protests against plans by the coalition to overhaul the judiciary, largely seen as a move by Netanyahu to avoid any criminal liability amid a flurry of accusations.
Netanyhu's government has also intensified deadly raids on Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank, killing 90 Palestinians since the beginning of 2023.
Netanyahu on Monday said he would delay the judicial overhaul in order to open talks with the plan’s opponents.
The White House said it had no comment on DeSantis’ plans while saying that administration officials have been regularly in touch with the Israeli government during the crisis.
It was thought Netanyahu would visit US President Joe Biden in Washington soon, however, on Tuesday it was confirmed no invitation had been extended amid the protests.