Florida pols weigh in on Trump recognizing Jerusalem as capital of Israel

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in Israel on a trade mission, praises President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Florida politicians had mixed responses to President Donald Trump‘s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and to instruct the State Department to develop a plan to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, in Israel on a trade mission, posted a video of himself and wife Ann Scott at the Western Wall praising the president’s announcement.

Palm Beach County’s U.S. House delegation for the 115th Congress, clockwise from top left: Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City; Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach; Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton; Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach.

“This is a great day,” Scott said. “I stand with Israel, I stand with all the citizens of Israel. The state of Fla stands with all the citizens of Israel. This is an outstanding day for both Israel and the citizens of the United States of America.”

Said Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio: “Today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction. Unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there.”

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, in an interview with Fox News,  said Trump’s announcement is cause for “a day of celebration.” Mast criticized Hamas and others calling for a “day of rage” in response.

“For those that are saying this is going to cause unrest, you talk about groups like Hamas out there calling for a day of rage, it shows exactly who any blood would be on the hands of – it’s those that would go out there and ultimately bring about violence and not anybody else to blame. They’re constantly looking for a reason to go out there and cause disruption and it’s not a surprise that they’d try to use this,” Mast said.

Even U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, an ardent Trump critic, voiced cautious approval.

“The President’s decision today is a recognition of existing U.S. law that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the U.S. embassy should ultimately be located in the capital,” said Deutch in a joint statement with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, a fellow member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.

The Deutch and Ros-Lehtinen statement continued: “There is no debate that the Jewish people have a deep-rooted religious, cultural and historic tie to Jerusalem, and today’s decision reaffirms that connection. The fact is that Jerusalem – an ancient and holy city to all three monotheistic faiths – will remain the capital of the Jewish state in any iteration of a negotiated two-state solution. Today’s decision does not preclude our shared goal of two states for two peoples to be negotiated between the parties themselves. Now is the time for urgent progress towards the President’s stated objective of achieving a real and lasting peace.”

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Delray Beach, was critical.

“I believe that Jerusalem is and should remain the undivided capital of Israel. To deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem would be to deny world history. That being said, the manner in which the Trump Administration has announced its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is of great concern,” Hastings said.
“In the context of peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the sensitivity of the status of Jerusalem cannot be overstated…The United States has long held that the final status of Jerusalem should be determined as part of an agreement negotiated between the State of Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The President’s announcement undercuts this position, as well as the role of the United States as an honest mediator of the conflict,” Hastings said.

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-West Palm Beach, offered this response: “The President’s announcement today is consistent with current U.S. law and reaffirms what we already know: Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The U.S. must recommit to our long-standing goal of a negotiated solution that leads to two states for two people. Only direct negotiations between the parties will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.”


House approves Rep. Ted Deutch’s anti-Hezbollah resolution

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, in 2016.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a resolution by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, urging the European Union to fully designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.

Deutch’s House Resolution 359 passed on a voice vote.

The EU in 2013 designated Hezbollah’s military wing — but not its political wing — as a terrorist organization subject to sanctions.

“The United States has been clear that this was false distinction then, and it remains a false distinction today,” Deutch said on the House floor. “Hezbollah is one unified terrorist organization, and it’s led by the terrorist Hassan Nasrallah.”

Deutch added: “More can be done to counter the Iranian proxy Hezbollah. And that begins with calling them what they are – a terrorist organization committed to the destruction of Israel and undermining the values and interests of the United States and – our EU friends must acknowledge, as well – the values and interests of Europe. The world knows that Hezbollah is a terrorist group. It’s time for the European Union to end its false distinction and join us in designating all of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

Click here to see a video of Deutch’s full remarks on the House floor.

This Brian Mast trip to Israel should be easier than his last one

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast in 2015 when he volunteered with the Israeli Defense Forces.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, will visit Israel next week as part of a delegation of about 35 members of Congress.

A meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on the schedule, as well as meetings with U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, military leaders, professors and entrepreneurs, according to a release from Mast’s office.

House Foreign Affairs Committee member Mast is a decorated U.S. Army combat veteran who lost his legs after a bomb blast in Afghanistan.

In 2015, Mast visited Israel to volunteer for a few weeks to serve alongside the Israeli Defense Forces.

“Following my service in the U.S. Army, I chose to volunteer alongside the Israeli Defense Forces because our countries share the common ideals of freedom, democracy and mutual respect for all people,” said Mast. “This trip is a great opportunity to hear directly from Israeli government and military leaders about how our two nations can work together to further advance these values.”




Trump says Palestinians ‘ready to reach for peace,’ but Rubio doubtful

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on CNN this morning.

President Donald Trump voiced optimism today about a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said he’s not optimistic.

“The Palestinians are ready to reach for peace. I know you’ve heard it before. I am telling you, that’s what I do, they are ready to reach for peace,” Trump said today in Jerusalem.

But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, appearing this morning on CNN, said he doesn’t see it happening.

“I think it’s a noble endeavor. Every American president has tried it and there’s a reason why it doesn’t happen. And let me say, the Israelis would love to have peace,” Rubio said.

But Rubio said some definitions of “peace” aren’t acceptable to Israel or the U.S.

“If peace means that Israel can no longer retain its nature as a Jewish state, if peace means they have to give up control of Jerusalem, if that’s peace, that’s not peace. That’s not going to  happen,” Rubio said.

“The Palestinian people I have no quarrel with. But from the  Palestinian leadership’s perspective, I don’t think their definition of peace fits within what most of us, at least here in Congress and in the United States, would define as peace and that’s always been the problem.”

Added Rubio: “I hope I’m wrong. I hope that there is an agreement that everyone can live with. But I’m not very optimistic.”

Joe Lieberman’s long, bipartisan history in Palm Beach County

Joe Lieberman at the South County Civic Center west of Delray Beach in 2004, campaigning on behalf of supervisor of elections candidate Arthur Anderson, at left. (Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Former Connecticut Sen. Joe Liebermangetting strong consideration from President Donald Trump for the vacant FBI director’s job, has been a familiar figure in Palm Beach County — campaigning for presidential tickets but also playing a role in local elections.

Lieberman campaigning for John McCain in West Palm Beach in 2008. (Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

Lieberman was the first Jewish candidate on a major-party presidential ticket when Democrat Al Gore tapped him as his running mate in 2000. Lieberman frequently campaigned in South Florida that year and enjoyed rock-star status in the heavily Jewish retirement communities of Palm Beach and Broward counties.

After forging a close friendship with former Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler , Lieberman campaigned in 2004 for Wexler’s hand-picked candidate for Palm Beach County elections chief, Arthur Anderson, to capitalize on Democratic resentment over the county’s 2000 “butterfly ballot.”

Lieberman also returned to the Palm Beach County condo circuit that fall on behalf of Democrat John Kerry as Democrats worried about losing some Jewish votes to pro-Israel President George W. Bush.

Lieberman ended up giving some credence to the Democratic fears, saying Bush had “a record of strong, consistent support for Israel. You can’t say otherwise,” but adding that Kerry “also been a strong and consistent supporter of Israel.”

Lieberman arriving at the Palm Beach home of Norma and Simon Fireman in 2010 for a Rabbinical College of America Founders’ Event (Bruce Bennett/The Palm Beach Post)

In 2005, Lieberman raised money for his 2006 Senate re-election in Boca Raton with the help of attorney Ted Deutch — and spilled the beans that Deutch would run for state Senate in 2006. Deutch is now a member of Congress.

Lieberman lost his 2006 Democratic primary in Connecticut, largely over his support for the Iraq war, but retained his Senate seat by running as an independent and winning in the general election.

(The losing Republican in that 2006 Connecticut election, Alan Schlesinger, later moved to Palm Beach County and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014.)

Lieberman returned to Palm Beach County during the 2008 presidential campaign — but this time on behalf of a Republican candidate, John McCain. Lieberman stumped with McCain before Florida’s GOP primary and during the general election.

He was also back in 2010, appearing at the Palm Beach home of Simon and Norma Fireman for a Rabbinical College of America event.

And last October, the potential Trump appointee campaigned for Democrat Hillary Clinton at Century Village of Boca Raton as part of a South Florida tour aimed at Jewish voters.

Sen. Joe Negron takes aim at companies that boycott Israel; critics cry ‘blacklist’

Attorney Gary Lesser introduces state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, last week at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.
Attorney Gary Lesser introduces state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, last week at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

Companies that boycott Israel would be shut out of Florida’s $145 million pension fund and denied large state government contracts under a bill by state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who’s in line to become Senate president next year.

Palestine Legal, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other critics signed a letter accusing Negron of creating a corporate “blacklist” that violates the First Amendment.

“If you want to discriminate against Israel, we have no interest in investing in your company,” Negron said last week while offering a briefing on the bill at the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County headquarters in West Palm Beach.

Read more about Negron’s bill at mypalmbeachpost.com