Florida’s only Democrat elected statewide made a strong case Thursday night that Democrats must stand by Israel, especially with Republicans in Florida making a serious play for the Jewish vote.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, addressing the Jewish Democratic Council of America, noted that Republicans are making a concerted effort to be seen as the pro-Israel party, and are making inroads with Jewish voters with aggressive messaging that is taking root in Florida and the Middle East itself.
“They’re trying to get the Jewish vote in the state of Florida,” Fried said on a Thursday evening Zoom call. “DeSantis has been trying to say ‘Trump is the best President for the state of Israel.'”
“And the state of Israel, and the people who are there, sometimes they believe it,” she continued. “You walk around and they’ve got yarmulkes with Trump on [them.] They’re naming settlements after Trump.”
“And so they’re trying to get into our Jewish community,” Fried said. “Trying to say that not only has Trump been so good for Israel, but also trying to make us doubt where the Democrats are. Trying to say that the Democratic Party now is pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli.”
The Commissioner discussed the 2019 trade mission the Governor and the Cabinet took to the country, an event that presented as four days of bipartisan good feelings, but even saw domestic political considerations come into play.
In fact, Fried described having to set Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu straight at a highly touted meeting between the Cabinet and the Prime Minister that the Governor’s Office spent most of the trip trying to firm up, amid an agenda of events that gave the Governor wide latitude to offer commentary on international affairs.
“There were four of us with Bibi. Bibi sat there with Ron DeSantis having this conversation about how important 2020 is for the state of Israel and making sure that we put Trump back in office.”
“And I had to stop this ridiculous conversation,” Fried said, assuring the Prime Minister “unequivocally that the Democratic Party in the country and the state of Florida stands united behind the state of Israel.”
“Conversations on the very far left of the party” may say otherwise, “but we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of where we stand with Israel,” Fried said.
The Commissioner described her own trip to AIPAC last year, including dealing with critics that asked her how she could support the Israeli government.
“I tried to explain that just like every other country that we support,” Fried said, “no one’s perfect,” Fried said.
“As democracies grow and demographics grow, countries need to grow … there are some policies that need to shift inside Israel.”
Fried did not go into detail as to what those policies were, but she did vouch for Israeli security.
“If the time comes when I need my own special forces, I don’t have a detail yet but it’s coming soon, I want Mossad agents,” Fried asserted.
While it remains to be seen what Fried’s eventual security detail will look like, the Commissioner, who spoke at last month’s Democratic National Convention, has gone on record saying she is “looking into” a run for Governor in 2022.
This cycle, while not on the ballot, she is trying to show that she is the kind of force that can drive turnout in 2022. All donations given to her Florida Consumers First political committee will be redistributed to other campaigns, a recent fundraising email contended.
Fried noted ahead of the formal start of the call that it was the “largest amount of dollars to down ballots any statewide’s ever done.”