DeSantis traveling to Israel amid turmoil over Netanyahu's paused judicial overhaul

Zac Anderson
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Gov. Ron DeSantis and then-Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a 2019 meeting.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will deliver the keynote address at an event in Israel next month as he works to burnish his foreign policy credentials ahead of an expected presidential run, traveling to a nation in turmoil after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to push through a judicial overhaul that drew widespread protests.

The Jerusalem Post and the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem announced Tuesday that DeSantis is speaking at their "Celebrate the Faces of Israel" event. The governor's trip to Israel is part a larger trade mission, the newspaper reported.

DeSantis has pitched himself as "the most pro-Israel governor in America." He met with Netanyahu in 2019 during his first trip abroad as governor, calling him "a really strong leader."

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Since then Netanyahu lost his job as prime minister and reclaimed it, even as he faces a trial over corruption charges. His far right coalition recently tried to push through a judicial overhaul that was widely criticized as an assault on democracy.

The judicial overhaul would "weaken the Supreme Court and grant politicians less judicial oversight in their policymaking," according to the Associated Press.

"Critics say the move upends Israel’s system of checks and balances and pushes it toward autocracy," the AP reported.

The proposed judicial overhaul resulted in demonstrations and strikes that roiled the country, blocking streets and grounding flights. Netanyahu announced Monday that he would delay his plan “out of a desire to prevent a rift in the nation.”

Asked whether DeSantis has concerns about Netanyahu proposing the judicial overhaul and whether he still considers the prime minister a strong leader, DeSantis spokesman Bryan Griffin said: "Governor DeSantis looks forward to visiting Israel and delivering remarks at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem."

Griffin also noted that "the governor's visit coincides with the 75th anniversary of Israel's independence."

DeSantis has been delving more into foreign policy as he prepares for a likely presidential bid, meeting with four foreign ambassadors this month.

The governor's recent comment that the war in Ukraine is a "territorial dispute" drew significant pushback from Republicans, contributing to a sense that his presidential stock has been dropping in recent weeks.