But he would say no to pro-Palestinian speech.
In Wednesday’s Republican presidential debate, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to say he’d oppose the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the region.
“I think to be a good ally, you back them in the decisions that they’re making with respect to Gaza,” DeSantis said. “For us, to be sitting in in Washington second-guessing them, I don’t think that’s the right way.”
When asked to clarify whether he would support the mass removal of Palestinians from Gaza, DeSantis said that he was “not going to tell them to do that” and that “there’s a lot of issues with that.” Then he added: “But if they make the calculation that to avert a second Holocaust, they need to do that, I think some of these Palestinian Arabs, Saudi Arabia should take some, Egypt should take some.”
DeSantis also criticized the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict, arguing that a Palestinian state could be a step towards Israel’s “destruction.”
“We also have a disagreement, Gov. Haley and I,” DeSantis said. “When she was at the [United Nations], she supported the idea of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. The problem with that is the Palestinian Arabs don’t recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. So doing a two-state solution doesn’t create something that’s going to lead to a lasting peace. It creates a stepping stone for Israel’s destruction. So under no circumstances as president am I going to pressure Israel to risk their security to do a so-called two-state solution.”
DeSantis has a history of taking heavy-handed measures to prove his pro-Israel bona fides.
In October, his administration attempted to shut down Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters at two public Florida universities, claiming that the groups violated a law banning “material support” for terrorist organizations—a move that clearly violated the First Amendment.
“Based on the National SJP’s support of terrorism, in consultation with Governor DeSantis, the student chapters must be deactivated,” wrote State University System of Florida Chancellor Raymon Rodrigues. “These two student chapters may form another organization that complies with Florida state statutes and university policies.”
In November, Florida quietly walked back those plans, citing concerns about “personal liability” for those tasked with directly derecognizing the groups.
DeSantis has made a trademark of mixing flashy rhetoric with doomed-to-fail violations of the Constitution. So it’s hardly surprising that he would try to quash constitutionally protected criticism of Israel. Apparently, he’s even willing to be ambivalent about a hypothetical ethnic cleansing.
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