TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis said he will expand Florida’s sanctions against Iran because of its support for terrorist groups across the Middle East, Gov. Ron DeSantis said as he criticized the Biden administration’s response to Hamas attacks on Israel.
DeSantis appeared at the Surfside synagogue on Tuesday to denounce the “barbarians” who carried out the attack, which has killed more than 1,600 people on both sides and 150 Israeli soldiers and civilians were taken hostage by Hamas militants.
“We will use every means available to stop the flow of funds to the Iranian regime,” DeSantis said at the Bar Harbor synagogue.
Iran celebrated the attacks, which began on Saturday, but denied suggestions it had provided military aid or intelligence to Hamas.
DeSantis said he will ask the Florida Legislature to expand the state’s ban on investment by Iranian companies to include finance, construction, shipping, ports and other industries. He also banned local governments from making any investments in Iran.
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State laws already limit state-level government contracts or economic development incentives for individuals and entities associated with several foreign “countries of concern,” including Iran.
DeSantis cited the state’s history of providing $18 million in security for Jewish day schools in Florida, as well as the state’s long history of opposing boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel’s Palestinian policies.
Two years ago, the governor also went to the Shul synagogue to sign legislation authorizing a moment of silence in schools and promoting the use of volunteer ambulance services by the Conservative Jewish community.
Members of the Shul, a conservative Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue, sought the legislation.
The governor said Tuesday that he has directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other agencies to be on high alert for any anti-Semitic activity that could extend to “raising funds for Hamas or other terrorist groups.”
“If you do this in Florida, you will be held accountable,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis on Monday ordered flags at public buildings in Florida to be flown at half-staff and the state Capitol to be illuminated in blue and white to commemorate the at least 900 Israeli civilians and soldiers who have died so far.
DeSantis, whose Republican presidential nomination has dimmed in the long shadow of front-runner Donald Trump, has also lashed out at President Joe Biden over attacks on Israel.
DeSantis criticized Secretary of State Antony Blinken for posting a statement calling for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on X and then deleting it. Blinken later tweeted that “Israel has the right to defend itself, rescue hostages and protect its citizens.”
Still, DeSantis said, “You want to know what they’re doing.”
“We know that if Israel laid down its weapons tomorrow, it would lead to the destruction of the Jewish state,” DeSantis said. “For the administration to do anything other than put out a unified voice that Israel should be able to defend itself and that we support that is really not surprising, but it’s still very, very disappointing.”
John Kennedy is a reporter in the Florida capital bureau of the USA TODAY Network. You can contact him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JKennedyReport.