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November 21, 2022 5:49 pm
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Florida Gov. DeSantis: West Bank ‘Not Occupied Territory’

avatar by Andrew Bernard

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addresses a crowd at the US Embassy in Israel on May 28, 2019. Photo: Governor’s Press Office.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Saturday told the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) leadership conference that the West Bank was “disputed,” not “occupied,” territory.

“I don’t care what the State Department says, they are not occupied territory, it is disputed territory,” DeSantis said of the West Bank, which he referred to as Judea and Samaria. “Because we understand history, we know those are thousands of years of connection to the Jewish people.”

The status of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza has been a point of contention in US foreign policy in recent years. For decades, the State Department referred to them collectively as “occupied” territories until the Trump administration removed that designation from annual human rights reports and other statements. The Biden administration resumed referring to the West Bank as occupied, citing longstanding bipartisan precedent. Israel disputes the characterization.

DeSantis’ keynote address to the RJC’s annual leadership conference in Las Vegas follows his nearly 20-point reelection in the Florida governor’s race and speculation that he will run for the Presidency in 2024. DeSantis touted policy successes that benefited Israel and the Jewish community in Florida including improved Holocaust education standards, legislation to combat antisemitism on college campuses, and recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

Other speakers at the conference included former US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and former President Donald Trump, who announced his 2024 candidacy last week. Speaking remotely on Saturday, Trump said if the 2020 election result had not been a “sham” and he had remained president, then Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians would have joined the Abraham Accords that normalized relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, and were later joined by Morocco. “We could have truly had peace in the Middle East,” Trump said.

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