The Consul General of Israel to Florida, Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, spoke at a press conference in the Florida Capitol on Nov. 8, 2023. He criticized calls for cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war. Photo by Jackie Llanos.
The top Israel official in Florida visited the Florida Legislature on Wednesday afternoon to fortify his government’s position against a cease-fire in the conflict against Hamas.
Miami Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky held a meeting with state lawmakers from which reporters and the public were excluded on the same day the Florida Legislature gave final passage to resolutions expressing support for Israel, a bill funding tighter security measures at Jewish day schools, and approved added sanctions against Iran-linked businesses.
The consul general’s visit to the Capitol also came one day after House members from both parties labeled anti-Semitic a Democrat’s proposed resolution calling for a cease-fire in the war that began when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
Following the closed-door meeting with state lawmakers, Elbaz-Starinsky invited the press to view video containing graphic footage of the attack. The bloody images depicted Hamas militants shooting people, charred bodies, and burned houses and cars. He asked reporters not to take pictures or videos of the footage.
“Calling for something that sounds innocent for a cease-fire — and who wouldn’t want a cease-fire?” he said.
“We don’t want war; we didn’t go to war for the sake of war,” Elbaz-Starinsky said. “But people need to understand what it means, the consequences of such a terrible decision [to seek a ceasefire]. It’s compromising the lives of hostages; it’s compromising the ability of Israel reaching its goal of obliterating Hamas. So, it is a very, very sensitive issue — both whatever is going on in Israel and, of course, the international dimension of this work.”
Elbaz-Starinsky thanked the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis for their unwavering support of Israel.
“We are very, very grateful to the leadership of this state — thank you, senators, for hosting me here today — starting with the governor and [the] Cabinet … and the Senate, and the House, and mayors, and local level. The support in the state of Florida is overwhelming,” he said.
Democratic Senate Leader Lauren Book, Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo and Republican Sen. Alexis Calatayud restated their support for Israel during the press conference. They represent parts of South Florida, with its large Jewish population.
In fact, Pizzo apologized to the consul general.
“I want to apologize on behalf of some members of our Legislature but really the public at large, that is incredibly ignorant to the genesis, the history, and the creation of what is Israel. How hard and how long it took to get there,” Pizzo said. He hugged Elbaz-Starinsky.
State lawmakers in both parties made their unwavering support of Israel clear during the special session. When Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon of Duval County proposed the House adopt a resolution acknowledging the deaths of Palestinians and calling for a cease-fire, members of both parties called her an anti-Semite.
The end of the special session coincided with the Republican presidential debate in Miami and gave DeSantis a chance to highlight his pro-Israel stance.
lbaz-Starinsky and DeSantis have had differing accounts of the state’s shipment of ammunition to Israel in late October, according to Reuters. The Governor’s Office claimed it had coordinated with Israel on the shipment, but Elbaz-Starinsky told Reuters he wasn’t sure how much influence DeSantis had.
However, lbaz-Starinsky told reporters Wednesday that he was working with DeSantis on sending another shipment of “mainly” medical supplies. He emphasized that Israeli military officials can request other kinds of supplies.
“Nobody in this state including the governor needs to work only with me and consuls general. We have a military representative in Tampa … and there are other various Israeli entities that are operating in this country,” Elbaz-Starinsky said.
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