June 13, 2024

Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed additional Florida sanctions on Iran Tuesday because of the Hamas attacks on Israel this past weekend that killed at least 1,000 Israelis.

At an event at The Shul of Bal Harbour synagogue in Surfside, DeSantis called for legislation for next year’s session to “block Iranian business in our state.”

“We know that we have an opportunity to do something forceful, that will make a difference in terms of the substance, but I think symbolically be also important,” DeSantis said.

He said he wants legislation that would build on a law the governor signed in May that restricts state contracts or property ownership to investors and companies affiliated with “countries of concern,” including Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela and Syria.

The goal is to expand the ban to include “the financial, construction, manufacturing, textile, technology, mining, metals, shipping, shipbuilding and port sectors,” DeSantis said.

He also said it would ban not only state contracts with Iranian businesses in those sectors but also local governments.

The sanctions would continue until both the president and Congress certify Iran has stopped supporting international terrorism and seeking to acquire weapons of mass destruction.

“These will be by far the strongest Iran sanctions that any state has enacted of all 50 states throughout this country,” DeSantis said.

The governor condemned the Hamas attacks, during which people at a peace festival made up 260 of the more than 1,000 Israelis killed and in which more than 3,000 Israelis were injured, and defended Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, which have killed more than 700 Palestinians and wounded more than 4,000 so far.

“Israel has the duty to defend itself with overwhelming force … in a way that Hamas terrorists’ infrastructure and networks are eradicated from the Earth,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis also criticized President Joe Biden, repeating a Republican attack on his decision in September to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds as part of a deal to free five U.S. citizens detained in Iran.

DeSantis decried what he called “tax dollars going to the Iranian regime in the form of ransom payments,” even though no U.S. tax dollars were involved.

The Iranian funds, gained through oil sales, were held in a South Korean bank and transferred to accounts in Qatar after being unfrozen. South Korea held that money under a waiver in 2018 from the Trump administration that allowed it to continue to purchase oil from Iran.

The $6 billion is earmarked for humanitarian purposes, and Iran has yet to receive any of it, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

White House adviser John Kirby said Tuesday the U.S. can refreeze the $6 billion, NBC News reported.

While Iran has for years provided support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups, Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagary said Monday that Israel can’t yet say if Iran was involved in the planning or training for the Hamas attack.

Later Tuesday on a segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” DeSantis said the war has taken a toll on Florida’s large Jewish population.

“It’s raw for our community down in South Florida,” he told host Joe Scarborough, a frequent critic of the governor who limited his questions to Israel and Hamas. “Everybody knows somebody who lives there … Unfortunately, people know people who have been killed.”

Editor Mark Skoneki contributed to this report.

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