TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and a large delegation of close to 100 people arrived in Israel Sunday on a trip that includes a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss ways to create new jobs, education and business opportunities.

(Courtesy: Governor’s Press Office)

The first order of business for DeSantis was speaking to the Florida Delegation at a welcome reception in Tel Aviv.

The Governor outlined his objectives and thanked the delegation for their commitment to Israel.

“I am excited to be here in Israel with such a diverse group of Florida leaders who will proudly represent Florida and our great nation on this historic business development mission,” said Governor DeSantis. “This mission will affirm our deep and ongoing partnership with Israel.”

His delegation includes education officials, business leaders, lawmakers and the head of the state’s tourism marketing agency.

The Governor wants to strengthen economic bonds between Florida and Israel during the visit.

There are plans for DeSantis and Enterprise Florida, Inc. President & CEO Jamal Sowell to meet with Israeli companies to recruit new high-wage jobs and make Florida the destination for Israeli business investment.

Florida businesses attending the mission will meet with Israeli businesses in an effort to build relationships and create trade opportunities.

The Governor is already calling this mission a success.

“One of the things we are going to be announcing is the start of direct flights to Orlando now. You have them in Miami and they’ve been successful. I really believe given the theme parks and all that, that would be a great place for Israeli;s to visit and would also be great for Central Floridians to come,” said Gov. DeSantis.

On Wednesday, DeSantis will host a meeting with the Cabinet members including Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Fried was already in the country Saturday for the third day of her own trade mission.

“My meetings are back to back with all type of advancements in agriculture and research,” Fried said in a phone interview Saturday. “My brain is going a million miles per hour with ideas and suggestions to bring back to Florida.”

So far, she has met with Israeli experts on medical marijuana, irrigation, and treating algae blooms. She has also talked with researchers fighting citrus greening, a disease that has devastated orange growers in Florida. On Sunday, she had plans to visit a company that works in advanced hydroponics, meet with Israel’s minister of agriculture and visit with cannabis growers.

On Wednesday, she will join DeSantis and the other two Cabinet members for a meeting at the U.S. Embassy. The meeting had raised questions about whether it was violating Florida’s open government laws because the public has a right to attend Cabinet meetings.

DeSantis and the Cabinet, however, don’t plan to conduct state business at the meeting, but rather sign proclamations declaring their support for Israel.

Reporters covering the governor’s trip were told they will not be allowed to bring laptops or cell phones into the meeting because of security issues. It will be broadcast on The FLORIDA Channel, a state-funded news service that covers state government.

“My understanding is it’s gone back to being ceremonial in nature,” Fried said of the meeting. “A discussion on the Florida/Israeli relationship and I believe proclamations that are being presented. I believe that is it.”

But she added that she hasn’t had any briefings from the governor’s office about the meeting agenda.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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