US presidential candidate says he sent weapons to Israel
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has sent a shipment of drones, body armor, and helmets to Israel, and has organized the transport of weapons and ammunition to the Jewish state from a private supplier, his office said on Thursday.
A spokesman for DeSantis told multiple US media outlets that the delivery was organized following a request by Israel’s consul general in Miami, Maor Elbaz-Starinsky.
However, there is confusion over the shipment, with Elbaz-Starinsky telling the Associated Press that he never made such a request. “Nothing went through me,” he said. “We were never in communication on any shipments of arms or ammunition. The only thing that I have dealt with sending is medical supplies.”
Despite Elbaz-Starinsky’s denial, DeSantis’ spokesman insisted to CNN that the governor worked with the Israeli diplomat to “help get weapons and ammunition to Israel through private parties.” However, a CNN source said that the state of Florida did not directly transport the weapons and ammo, leaving it unclear how DeSantis participated in their delivery to Israel.
The supplies left Florida for Israel last Tuesday, the source said.
“It is not illegal for the governor of a state to offer a measure of foreign assistance to another country,” White House spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday. “There are laws and regulations which govern how the export process is handled and that’s all done through [The Department of] Commerce. I couldn’t speak with authority today about whether the governor has checked all those boxes or not.”
Foreign aid, particularly military aid, is usually the purview of the federal government. The Pentagon has flown multiple shipments of arms, ammunition, and equipment to Israel since the war with Hamas broke out earlier this month, and Biden is currently pushing Congress to pass a $14 billion package of military aid for Israel, which he has tied to $61 billion in funding for Ukraine, despite protest from Republican lawmakers.
However, DeSantis has taken a number of independent actions in support of Israel since the conflict began. The governor has arranged charter flights to transport Americans home from Israel, sent shipments of medical supplies, and ordered universities in Florida to ban the Students for Justice in Palestine organization.
While these moves have garnered media attention, they have not succeeded in boosting DeSantis’ poll numbers. According to a USA Today survey published on Monday, just 12% of Republican voters want the Florida governor to be their party’s nominee for president next year, compared to 58% who back former President Donald Trump for the position.