After Stumbles at Home, DeSantis Heads Abroad to Find His Footing

“It was certainly designed to demonstrate his readiness to grapple with many of the challenges he would face,” said Dan Shapiro, who put together and managed Mr. Obama’s trip and ultimately became his ambassador to Israel, “particularly for a candidate who had not been on the international stage for a long time and was running against a decades-long foreign policy voice in John McCain.”

Mitt Romney, unsuccessfully seeking the Republican nomination, visited Israel in 2007, touring the Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. He returned in 2012, raising the ire of Palestinian leaders by suggesting that cultural differences explained why the Israelis were so much more economically successful than the Arabs under occupation.

“It’s a box that everyone checks,” said Francis Rooney, a former Republican congressman from Florida who was close with Mr. DeSantis when they served together in the House. “It’s a chance for him to show the world, particularly the U.S. electorate, that he has some things to say on foreign policy.”

For Mr. DeSantis, a pugilistic governor known mainly for domestic fights with corporations, educators and Democrats over social policy, the trip has been a chance to discuss foreign policy, though not without some controversy. In Japan, he criticized Germany for not doing enough to bolster Ukraine’s self-defense, while raising the prospects of a bloody stalemate in Ukraine with echoes of the Battle of Verdun during World War I.

“You don’t want to end up in, like, a Verdun situation, where you just have mass casualties, mass expense, and end up with a stalemate,” he told a Japanese newspaper. “It’s in everybody’s interest to try to get to a place where we can have a cease-fire.”

He praised the U.S.-Japan alliance to which Mr. Trump was at times hostile, and took some voter-pleasing jabs at China.

But the statecraft choreography was left mainly to Thursday’s leg in Israel, which came at a fraught moment. Israel’s new government, the most right-wing in its history, has drawn tens of thousands of protesters to the streets and alienated many American Jews. Mike Caruso, a Republican Florida state representative, said in an interview from Jerusalem that he rushed a bill through the Legislature in Tallahassee this week to increase criminal penalties for antisemitic and other bias crimes so the governor could sign it ceremonially in Jerusalem.

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