WATCH: DeSantis Tells Israelis US Should Let Them Govern Themselves

Israel's judicial reforms, which President Biden has criticized, are none of America's business, DeSantis says

April 27, 2023

During a keynote speech in Jerusalem, Republican governor Ron DeSantis (Fla.) advocated for America to "respect Israel’s right to make its own decisions about its own governance," a position in contrast with President Joe Biden’s pressure on the country to halt its judicial overhaul. 

"You’re a smart country, you figure it out," DeSantis told a crowd at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem Thursday, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Israel’s founding. The likely presidential candidate is on a tour of four countries, potentially looking to boost his foreign policy résumé ahead of a campaign announcement. 

"It shouldn’t be for us to butt in to these important issues," DeSantis said. He declined to comment on the country’s potential judicial overhaul pushed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has sparked protests in recent weeks. 

DeSantis told reporters following the speech "that the United States should be a strong ally to Israel, but we should not butt into their internal affairs."

The governor spoke about his achievements in Florida and his prioritization of a relationship with Israel. "Maintaining a strong Israel relationship has been a priority for me during my time in elected office," he said. 

DeSantis's remarks come as Biden has criticized Netanyahu's proposed judicial overhaul, saying in March that "they cannot continue down this road" and that he is "very concerned." Netanyahu and his government argue the country’s courts are activist institutions that need reforms, including allowing the parliament to override the Supreme Court's decisions.

Biden told Netanyahu to "walk away" from the proposal and said he isn’t inviting the prime minister to the White House in the near future. The Washington Free Beacon reported in March that Biden’s State Department is funding an anti-Netanyahu organization responsible for fueling the protests against the reforms. 

"Hopefully the prime minister will act in a way that he can try to work out some genuine compromise, but that remains to be seen." Biden said last month. 

Netanyahu responded to Biden’s comments, saying "Israel is a sovereign country, which makes its decisions by the will of its people and not based on pressures from abroad."

The foreign tour is DeSantis's first international trip since 2019. The high-profile tour includes stops in South Korea, Japan, and the United Kingdom.

DeSantis was asked by reporters about his fight with Disney, which is suing the governor for revoking its special privileges. He said the company "has been treated much different than Universal, SeaWorld, and all these other places and so, they’re upset because they’re actually having to live by the same rules as everybody else."