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Ron DeSantis slams CIA and accuses 'anti-Israel' UN of fomenting terrorism

Republican candidate calls himself the most 'Pro-Israel' governor in US and accuses Biden of treating Israeli leader disgracefully
Republican Ron DeSantis is running for the US presidency (AFP/File photo)

Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis accused the United Nations of “fomenting” terrorism in a speech on Monday and also bashed the CIA and US State Department for getting US policy on Israel "wrong".

In a speech hosted by the group, Christians United for Israel, DeSantis mixed his populist credentials with pro-Israel positions. The speech came at a critical time for the Florida governor, whose campaign has faced financing challenges as he struggles to differentiate himself from frontrunner, former US President Donald Trump. 

DeSantis sought to link himself to many of Trump’s pro-Israel moves. He said that as a congressman, “one of the most fun things I got to be involved with” was advocating for Jerusalem to be formally recognised as Israel’s capital - a decision made by Trump in 2017.

DeSantis said that when he was in Congress, he took part in a scouting trip to select the land for the US embassy in Jerusalem, adding that he was warned against the move by US diplomats and intelligence officers.

“Every single person I talked to from State or the CIA claimed if you move the embassy to Jerusalem there’s gonna be world war three,” he said.

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“Every one of them was wrong. We knew that wasn’t going to happen and we knew it was the right thing to do”.

After the 1967 war, known by some as the “Six-Day War”, Israel occupied and annexed the West Bank along with the eastern part of Jerusalem, which the Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state. Most of the international community has refused to recognise Israel’s decision.

DeSantis accused the Biden administration of trying to “force” a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - which he dismissed, saying that a return to pre-1967 borders would be “indefensible”.

“You can’t do peace with people who don’t believe you have a right to exist as a Jewish state,” he said.

“Israel has the strongest claim of rights to Judea and Samaria,” he added, using the Hebrew words for the occupied West Bank.

'UNRWA foments terrorism'

DeSantis called himself the “most pro-Israel governor” in the US. He pointed to his record as the first major public official to do events in the occupied West Bank, and legislation he signed targeting the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) which he labelled "antisemitic".

The BDS movement is a Palestinian-led nonviolent initiative that seeks to challenge Israel's occupation and abuses of Palestinian human rights through economic, cultural, and academic boycotts similar to the successful boycott campaigns of Apartheid-era South Africa.

DeSantis noted that as a congressman, he led efforts to defund UN agencies like UNWRA which he labelled as antisemitic and anti-Israel while accusing the organisation of “fomenting terrorism”.

UNRWA provides services to nearly six million Palestinians registered in the Palestinian territories, including occupied East Jerusalem, as well as in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. It has long been in the crosshairs of Republican and some Democratic lawmakers. In 2018, the Trump administration cut all US funding for the agency. The Biden administration reversed the move. 

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He took credit for Airbnb’s move to reverse a decision to remove rental listings of homes in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In his speech, he also announced that Florida had officially started its investigation into Morningstar, the independent investment research company, for violating anti-BDS law.

“When you concoct a movement that focuses all of your ire at the only Jewish state in this world, at the exclusion of all these other things that are going on, you don’t care about boycotting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), you don’t care about boycotting all these rogue regimes, you only care about applying disfavoured treatment to the state of Israel, that is antisemitism and that is wrong,” he said to cheers from the crowd. 

Anti-BDS laws or executive orders have been passed by at least 35 other states across the country, according to the legal advocacy group, Palestine Legal

'Biden treats Bibi disgracefully

DeSantis also accused Biden of appeasing Iran and failing to enforce sanctions against Tehran, which he said meant the US was indirectly funding “both sides” of the war in Ukraine because of Iran’s military support for Moscow.

The Florida governor faced criticism earlier this year - including from those in the Republican Party - when he called the war in Ukraine a "territorial dispute”. He later walked back those comments.

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DeSantis also attacked Biden for publicly opposing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial overhaul and criticising the makeup of Israel’s government, which Biden has labelled “one of the most extreme” in decades.

“What this Biden administration has done, I think has been disgraceful,” De Santis said. “The way they treat a strong ally like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been disgraceful.”

“Biden needs to butt out of that (the judicial reform) and let Israel govern itself,” he said.

Analysts have speculated about a rift between the US and Israel over the judicial overhaul, but Netanyahu himself said that cooperation with the US “has never been better” when Israel launched its raid on the Jenin refugee camp.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s office said that Biden had invited the Israeli leader to visit the US during a “warm and long” phone call.

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