TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/AP) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet held a meeting Wednesday in Israel which was the center of a court battle by some who felt the meeting in Israel was illegal. They presented a proclamation of support for Israel and heard from Israelis on several issues important to Florida.

The Republican governor then signed a bill that prohibits anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools and universities. The new law defines anti-Semitism to include “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” ”blaming Israel for all interreligious or political tensions,” or “requiring behavior of Israel that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

DeSantis called the meeting historic, but the open government watchdog organization First Amendment Foundation and several media outlets sued in an effort to stop it, claiming it violated state law that requires meetings be accessible to the public.

DeSantis didn’t acknowledge the lawsuit during the meeting, but quipped, “Since we’re in Jerusalem, we may actually get some interest in our Cabinet meetings for a change, which would be great.”

A judge was asked Tuesday to stop the meeting, but the emergency motion was denied because lawyers for DeSantis and the three independently elected Cabinet members could not be served with court papers. First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said after the Cabinet meeting that she will still ask the judge to rule the meeting was a violation of law and ask for an order saying future meetings can’t be held out of state.

“Just don’t do this, that’s the point. Don’t do it,” Petersen said. “The issue is holding a Cabinet meeting somewhere other than Florida.”

Governor Ron DeSantis leads ceremonial meeting with Florida Cabinet members at the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on May 29, 2019. (Courtesy: Governor’s Press Office)

The Cabinet is made up of Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. The meeting was part of a four-day trade mission to Israel. They heard from Israelis on issues also important to Florida, including maintaining a stable water supply, preparing emergency responses and terrorism.

The meeting was live-streamed by The FLORIDA Channel, a state-funded television station based in the Florida Capitol. It was broadcast in the Cabinet’s usual meeting room and accommodations were made in the event members of the public wanted to comment on the proceedings.

WATCH THE ENTIRE MEETING HERE:

 

But the Cabinet room was largely empty beyond staff and reporters, and technical glitches hampered the broadcast.

The meeting opened with a prayer given by administrative law Judge Bob Cohen, who was in the Tallahassee meeting room. But the conference call dropped the connection in the middle of the prayer.

As staff tried to reconnect, they repeatedly punched in the wrong code number.  eSantis and the Cabinet sat waiting for a reconnection as an automated voice said over and over, in Tallahassee and Jerusalem, “I’m sorry, I did not recognize that conference code. Please try again.”

DeSantis then asked Patronis to say the prayer instead.

(Courtesy: Governor’s Press Office)

After the cabinet meeting, DeSantis visited the Hub Etzion Industrial Park in the Gush Etzion region of Israel for a roundtable meeting with Israeli officials to discuss the boycott, divestment and sanction movement and why Israel has been  targeted for discrimination. The visit to Hub Etzion was also of historical significance as it marks the first time a Florida Governor has crossed the “green line” into Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, which is Israel’s biblical heartland.

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

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