FACT CHECK: Explaining Claims That Ron DeSantis Sent Weapons And Ammunition To Israel
The DeSantis War Room claimed that Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis sent cargo planes with weapons and ammunition to Israel.
NEW: DeSantis has sent cargo planes with drones, weapons, ammo, body armor, and helmets to Israel https://t.co/QTYvifBuU7
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) October 26, 2023
What Is The Origin Of This Claim?
The origin of the claim is an Associated Press (AP) article, which is cited in the DeSantis War Room tweet. The article’s earlier headline reads, “DeSantis says he’s sending weapons to Israel in move that could bolster him in the GOP primary.”
The article itself, though, did not report that DeSantis was sending cargo planes with weapons and ammunition to Israel, as the DeSantis War Room stated. Instead, the Associated Press reported that Florida worked with private groups to supply weapons and ammunition to Israel. These efforts were not state-funded, according to Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’ press secretary for the governor’s office.
Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director for the DeSantis campaign, tweeted that the “weapons and armor were not funded from the state budget at all.” (RELATED: X Post Misleads On Mutiny In Israeli Air Force)
The weapons and armor were not funded from the state budget at all, the state coordinated with the consulate to deliver items purchased by private organizations and individuals.
— Christina Pushaw 🐊 🇺🇸 (@ChristinaPushaw) October 26, 2023
“The weapons and armor were not funded from the state budget at all, the state coordinated with the consulate to deliver items purchased by private organizations and individuals,” Pushaw tweeted.
Check Your Fact reached out to the DeSantis campaign for comment.
What Did DeSantis Actually Do?
The AP headline was later changed to, “DeSantis says Florida helped send weapons to Israel in move that could boost him in the GOP primary.” Redfern told Check Your Fact that the weapons and ammunition were not state-funded and that they “were not transported using state resources.”
“Weapons and ammunition were not purchased by the state and were not transported using state resources. The Governor’s Office was contacted by the consul general for assistance to clear federal bureaucratic hurdles associated with getting those items to Israel,” Redfern said.
Israeli Consul General in Miami, Maor Elbaz-Starinsky, disputed that his office had worked with the DeSantis administration on sending weapons and ammunition to Israel, though said he had been in contact with the Florida governor about rifle parts at one point, according to Reuters. He also initially disputed to the Associated Press that he had been in “communications” with Florida about arms shipments, drones or body armor.
“Nothing went through me. We were never in communication on any shipments of arms or ammunition. The only thing that I have dealt with sending is medical supplies,” Elbaz-Starinsky said, before later saying that other members of the Israeli government had been in contact with the DeSantis administration about sending supplies to Israel, according to the AP.
Elbaz-Starinsky later told the Miami Herald that he asked the governor’s office, along with others, for help in getting a shipment of rifle parts and other supplies to Israel.
“They asked me to help. I approached a few contacts, including the governor’s office, to get the final approval. It went through all the process. I’m not even sure, at the end of the day, which one untangled this thing and made the shipment be approved,” Elbaz-Starinsky said to the Herald. He added that the “stakeholders who did the shipment upon the request of Israel had all of the approvals needed to send the shipment, and they were just missing the final approval.”
CNN reported that Florida helped the Israeli government transport body armor, drones and helmets, citing a source and Redfern. Redfern told CNN that at “the request of the Israeli Consul General in Miami, cargo planes contracted by Florida were used to transport healthcare and hospital supplies, drones, body armor, and helmets that first responders can use.”
Check Your Fact reached out to the Israeli Consul General in Miami for comment.
Can DeSantis Send Weapons Abroad?
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, explained to Check Your Fact that the president is authorized to “control the import and export of defense articles and services.”
“The U.S. Arms Export Control Act authorizes the President to control the import and export of defense articles and services. If the President chooses, he can issue a license to an individual or organization that wishes to export defense articles or services. Otherwise, the exportation of these items is not permitted,” Kimball said. “We are not aware if Governor DeSantis’s moves were done in a manner consistent with U.S. federal law or not. It is a question for him and his team.”
The exportation of weapons is regulated by the U.S. Arms Export Control Act. (RELATED: X Video Shows High-Rise Buildings Being Demolished In China, Is not Linked To Israel-Hamas War)
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported:
“The Arms Exports and Control Act (AECA) mandates that the administration issue approval for exports of defense articles to other countries, with limited exceptions, according to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). In addition, the U.S. Munitions List specifies that ammunition and small arms that have military purpose are included in the ITAR. ITAR requires that “any person who intends to export or to import temporarily a defense article must obtain the approval of the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls prior to the export or temporary import,” the rule states.”
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said during an Oct. 26 press briefing that “it’s not illegal for the governor of a state to offer a measure of foreign assistance to another country.”
“I would certainly let the governor speak to what Florida is doing. It is not illegal for the governor of a state to offer a measure of foreign assistance to another country. There are laws and regulations which govern how the export process is handled, and that’s all done through Commerce. I couldn’t speak with authority today about whether the governor has checked all those boxes or not,” Kirby said.
A National Security Council spokesperson referred Check Your Fact to the Department of Commerce. A Department of Commerce spokesperson told Check Your Fact that “the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and our interagency partners are working to appropriately expedite applications for assistance to Israel.”
“Consistent with the President’s direction, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and our interagency partners are working to appropriately expedite applications for assistance to Israel. While we cannot provide details on particular transactions, we are in close contact with the Israeli government, and have issued FAQs (on our website here) for U.S. exporters that are seeking to provide support to Israel to help ensure that they seek and receive the appropriate authorizations,” the spokesperson said.
Check Your Fact reached out to the State Department for comment and will update this article if a response is provided.