Held in the annex of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem, Gov. Ron DeSantis said: 'This Cabinet voted to recognize this as the Capitol of Israel and here we are.'
JERUSALEM - Florida’s historic Cabinet meeting in what turned out to be an annex of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem went off with only minor technical glitches, and got personal for the only Jewish member, Nikki Fried, Florida's Agricultural Commissioner.
“This is launching off the Jerusalem leg of our trip,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said afterward, adding that the delegation was going to the City of David on Thursday. “I think it was really strong.”
The cabinet meeting, Florida's first ever held outside of the country, was met with a last-ditch lawsuit filed by the First Amendment Foundation and some of Florida’s largest news organizations, including The Palm Beach Post, alleging DeSantis and his cabinet of “willfully” violating Florida’s Sunshine Law by holding a meeting of the state’s highest officials in Israel during a trade mission. The suit was dismissed because the governor and his cabinet members could not be served.
Earlier Wednesday DeSantis called the arguments in the lawsuit “totally baseless.”
Just before the meeting, the media and other attendees had to go through a security check at the street entrance that required attendees to turn over their passports for visitor badges. The group was then escorted through the grounds of the former consulate building to a skylit room with stone columns that used to be the chapel of a monastery. The room was named after Thomas C. Wasson, the first ambassador to Israel who was shot to death in 1948 while crossing the street.
DeSantis got the meeting started by asking Ben Cohen, back in the Florida Cabinet chamber in Tallahassee, to provide an invocation. But the conference system didn’t recognize the code – even after four attempts.
DeSantis then asked CFO Jimmy Patronis to give the invocation. Afterward, Attorney General Ashley Moody joked that Israel excels in technology, which made the ability for people to watch it live-streamed back in Florida possible.
DeSantis said the embassy annex once housed the U.S. consulate, “providing assistance to Palestinian Arabs,” DeSantis said. He explained they were using the annex because the main building in the Arnona consular section of Jerusalem, where the groundbreaking for the embassy was held last year, was still under construction.
“This Cabinet voted to recognize this as the Capitol of Israel and here we are,” DeSantis said, joking that the Cabinet meeting might actually get some attention for a change.
He offered a resolution recognizing the relationship between Israel and Florida, calling Israel a true friend of the U.S.
And they honored a woman, Miriam Fuld, whose husband was stabbed in the back last year by a 16-year-old Arab boy. She told the Cabinet the perpetrator “was raised to have nothing but hatred for Jews.”
Fried, the first Jewish woman elected to the Cabinet, and its only Democrat, recounted her first trip to Israel 25 years ago after she’d toured Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.
“It had a lasting impact on me to stand up for injustice and be the voice for the people that have no voice,” Fried said.
After the meeting ended, DeSantis signed an anti-Semitism bill that was passed almost unanimously by the Florida legislature.
The Florida measure adds religion to the list of things that cannot be discriminated against. It also requires Florida public schools and colleges to treat incidents of antisemitism by students, teachers and other employees the same as racism.
The term “antisemitism” is described in the bill as a perception of Jews as expressions of hatred, rhetorical and physical attacks directed toward somebody because they are Jewish, and attacks on Jewish homes, institutions and religious facilities.