Last week I visited Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, for my regular tour of meetings with the State’s leadership and lawmakers. I always come up there when the House of Representatives and the Senate are in session. It is the best time to meet the lawmakers, to tell them about Israel and the Middle East but also to listen to them, to understand what is on the minds of Floridians, to get a feel for the issues that are of most concern to the citizens of this State. I had excellent meetings with Governor Charlie Crist, who was wearing a green jacket (it was St. Patrick’s day) and with Lieutenant Governor Jeff Kottkamp. I also met Attorney General Bill McCollum, House Speaker Larry Cretul, House majority leader Adam Hasner and many good friends in the House and Senate, both democrats and Republicans.
After spending three days in Tallahassee, I came away with two main observations: one is the general quality of this great State’s lawmakers. Florida is truly blessed to be led by some very high-level politicians who clearly have the interests of their people in mind as they work, literally day in and day out, to make life better for all Floridians. Their deep sense of responsibility for the future of Florida and their efforts to balance Florida’s budgetary constraints with the welfare of its people is truly admirable.
The second observation I take with me from Tallahassee is that Israel is one issue on which there is truly a bipartisan consensus among lawmakers. It was very comforting to see how Florida’s representatives understand Israel’s desire to achieve peace with its neighbors and how they support the existence of Israel and its strategic alliance with the US. I found some lawmakers to be critical of some of Israel’s policies while others support them, but all – Democrats and Republicans – agree that Israel has a right to exist in secure and recognized borders as well as the obligation to defend its citizens against terrorism. This kind of understanding must not be taken for granted. There are States and countries in which people still put in question our right to have what every other nation on earth has.