TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Legislature convened a special session on Monday, marking a significant occasion for lawmakers to showcase their unwavering support for Israel. The session also serves as an opportunity for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis to gather talking points as he actively campaigns for the presidency. In the days ahead, legislators are anticipated to deliberate on fresh sanctions against Iran, a staunch supporter of Hamas, and vote on resolutions that unequivocally express solidarity with Israel’s right to defend itself.
At the commencement of the session, David Schachter, a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor from Miami, passionately implored House members to join him in perceiving the world through his eyes. As someone who had witnessed the harrowing marches and protests in Europe that ultimately culminated in gas chambers and mass graves, Schachter emphasized the dire need for a collective awakening. In response to his poignant remarks, Republican House Speaker Paul Renner vowed unwavering support, stating that the House would steadfastly stand with Israel and the Jewish people, both now and in perpetuity.
The bipartisan gathering of Florida lawmakers had previously convened in the Capitol to express their profound horror and unequivocal solidarity with the Israeli people following the heinous attacks by Hamas militants last month. Now, they are poised to translate their sentiments into concrete action, conveying an unambiguous message of support not only for the current conflict but also against the scourge of anti-Semitism within their own state.
Tragically, the death toll continues to mount, with over 1,400 Israelis having lost their lives, primarily due to the October 7 Hamas attack that instigated the ongoing hostilities. The Palestinian death toll, as reported by the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, has reached a staggering 9,700. In light of these distressing figures, the lawmakers are currently weighing a resolution that unequivocally rejects and condemns the persistent threats faced by Jewish individuals, institutions, and communities in Florida, the United States, and worldwide. The resolution specifically denounces individuals and organizations committed to the extermination of the Jewish people.
In addition to resolutions and condemnations, lawmakers will deliberate on imposing fresh sanctions against companies engaged in business with Iran. Furthermore, they are considering the establishment of a $35 million grant program aimed at bolstering the security of Jewish schools, synagogues, and other crucial institutions. Florida already maintains sanctions against companies directly involved in business dealings with Iran and several other “countries of concern,” including Cuba, China, and Russia. The federal government has long imposed sanctions on Iran.
The special session was opportunistically scheduled during a period when lawmakers were already slated to convene at the Capitol for committee meetings. Consequently, Republican leaders seized the occasion to maximize productive output. Apart from addressing Israel-related matters, the Legislature will also tackle other pressing issues such as hurricane relief, property insurance, and increased funding for the education of developmentally disabled students.
Governor DeSantis, in the aftermath of the attacks, has consistently demonstrated his unwavering support for Israel, leveraging his official position to translate his words into tangible actions. He has dispatched planes to Israel to facilitate the repatriation of Floridians and provide essential supplies to the country. However, some Democrats have criticized the timing of the special session, suggesting that it was orchestrated to bolster DeSantis’ presidential campaign.
House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell, in a news release, expressed her concern, asserting that the focus should be on addressing the needs of Floridians, including areas such as property insurance, schools, and healthcare. Driskell questioned the relevance of GOP primary voters’ concerns in Iowa, urging DeSantis to ascertain their priorities during his ongoing campaign.
As the special session unfolds, the Florida Legislature is poised to convey an unambiguous message of support for Israel, resolute in their stance against anti-Semitism, and determined to take concrete actions to ensure the safety and security of Jewish communities.