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Presidential hopefuls outdo each other on Hamas, Israel war

Presidential hopefuls outdo each other on Hamas, Israel war

Candidates across the spectrum urge overwhelming force and blast Biden's weakness. Only one calls for restraint.

Analysis | Washington Politics


The 2024 presidential candidates are not holding back. Across the board they are issuing strident condemnations of Hamas's brutal attacks against Israel and support for Israel's ensuing war in Gaza.

Nearly all are using the events to blame Biden Administration policies in the Middle East.

Only one, Republican Vivek Ramaswamy, has urged restraint on the part of the U.S., pointing to his colleagues' anti-Iran rhetoric as a possible slide into war for Washington and a broader Middle East conflagration.

Republicans overall offered the most bombastic takes, with Trump proclaiming that his Abraham Accords had brought “peace” to the Middle East before Biden came in and blew it all up.

The accords, which sought U.S. normalization with Arab states, were only signed by Morocco, Bahrain, UAE, and Sudan (whose government was overthrown this year and is in the middle of another civil war) before Trump left office. While “peace” is clearly in the eye of the beholder, these agreements were not only upheld, but the Biden White House has praised and sought doggedly to expand them, reportedly offering Saudi Arabia all sorts of concessions to join.

That the accords left the actual peace process – between Israel-Palestine – off the table, is being blamed in part for the tinderbox that led to last weekend’s attacks.

Beyond that, candidates are demanding reprisals, blaming Iran, and warning of terror attacks in the U.S.

Cornel West, who is running as an independent primary candidate on Biden’s left flank, was the only one to offer a warning against civilian killings on both sides, and lays blame for Hamas’s action at the feet of US-Israeli policies.

Here’s how they all line up:


The 2024 Democrats:

President Biden: “In this moment we must be crystal clear: We stand with Israel. And we will make sure Israel has what it needs to take care of its citizens, defend itself and respond to this attack. There’s no justification for terrorism. There’s no excuse.”

Marianne Williamson: “Innocent civilians who had nothing to do with the actions of the Israeli government are, even as I write this, either being tortured or killed or are dead already. Children have been taken hostage. A nation is terrorized. (...) And yes, I know. These events did not occur in a vacuum. I could write about — and indeed I have, and at length — the myriad injustices Palestinians have endured at the hands of Israel. (...) I will have much to say in the coming days about what is happening in Israel and how I feel the United States should respond. For now, I stand with Israel. And I stand with the Palestinian people. I do not stand with Hamas, nor will I ever. For their cause is not justice. Their cause is terror.

2024 Republicans

Donald Trump: "The atrocities we are witnessing in Israel would never have happened if I was president." (...) "less than four years ago, we had peace in the Middle East with the historic Abraham Accords. Today we have an all-out war in Israel, and it's going to spread very quickly. What a difference a president makes."

Later he added in a Truth Social post, in all-caps: “CROOKED JOE BIDEN MUST TAKE BACK AND FREEZE THE 6 BILLION DOLLARS RIGHT NOW, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE. HOW COULD ANYONE BE SO INCOMPETENT AND STUPID? BIDEN CAUSED THIS WAR, AND IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE!!!

This has become a ubiquitous charge lobbed against the White House by Republicans in the wake of the Hamas attacks. The U.S. had unfrozen $6 billion in Iranian oil profits that were being held by South Korea, in exchange for the release of U.S. hostages last month. The money is currently held by Qatar, which was expected to be doled out for humanitarian needs in Iran. None of that money has left Doha, according to reports.

Gov. Ron DeSantis: Proposed anti-Iran sanctions for the state of Florida on Tuesday, calling the Tehran government a “clearinghouse for terrorist funding in the region.” Meanwhile, he said, "Israel, with the full support of the United States, should kill Hamas members and extinguish their entire infrastructure,"

He also blamed Biden for unfreezing $6 billion for Iran.

Amb. Nikki Haley: Her message to Israel was simple. “Finish them. Hamas did this, you know Iran’s behind this. Finish them.”

"What happened to Israel could happen here in America,” Haley said in a separate interview. “I have been terribly worried about the fact that Iran has said that the easiest way to get into America is through the Southern border … we don’t need to wait for another 9/11.”

Vice President Mike Pence: “Biden should demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages in Gaza and direct JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) to be prepared to mobilize US Special Forces with Israeli Defense Forces to get our people home. Hamas gives ‘em up, or we go get ‘em.”

In response to a report that Biden is considering sending a second aircraft carrier, Pence said “Just do it!”

Pence also attacked what he said were “voices of appeasement” in the GOP, including Ramaswamy, Trump, and DeSantis, who have all urgedrestraint and questioned U.S. interests in the Ukraine War. “This is also what happens when you have leaders in the Republican Party signaling retreat on the world stage.”

Sen Tim Scott: “The last thing we need is a Joe Biden wing of the Republican Party on foreign policy,” echoing Pence on the issue of Israel and Hamas.

He also called the attacks “an assault on Western Civilization. The truth is though, Joe Biden funded these attacks on Israel. America’s weakness is blood in the water for bad actors, but this is worse than that. We didn’t just invite this aggression, we paid for it.”

Later, he added, “at least 9 Americans have been killed at the hands of evil Hamas terrorists. It’s time to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, who has the resources and the power to wipe Hamas off the map.”

Gov. Chris Christie: "What I would be doing is making sure, one, that Israel has everything that it needs to be able to take whatever actions it needs to take.” In this interview, he also criticizes “irresponsible” GOP House members for removing Speaker Kevin McCarthy and paralyzing the House in a time of crisis.

More Christie: “Biden’s appeasement of Israel’s enemies has invited this war against Israel. Appeasement anywhere never works. We must do whatever it takes to support the State of Israel in its time of grave danger, and we must end the scourge of Iran-backed terrorism. This terrorism is funded by Biden’s idiotic release of $6 billion to the Iranians.

“The Hamas war against Israel is now the second war started under Biden’s failed presidency, first by Russia in Ukraine and now by Hamas in Israel. Both could have been deterred by strong American leadership.”

Christie also blamed U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan as signaling weakness.

Vivek Ramaswamy: He pushes for strong support of Israel and blasts Hamas, but warns of a wider war that could include the U.S. He presented a 6-point plan on X, which included critiques of Haley and Pence for escalatory rhetoric:

“These histrionics are unhelpful & unserious. The U.S. should provide Israel with diplomatic support, intelligence-sharing, and necessary munitions to defend its own homeland, while taking special care to avoid a broader regional war in the Middle East that would *not* advance U.S. interests.”


The 2024 independents

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: “This ignominious, unprovoked, and barbaric attack on Israel must be met with world condemnation and unequivocal support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. We must provide Israel with whatever it needs to defend itself — now. As President, I’ll make sure that our policy is unambiguous so that the enemies of Israel will think long and hard before attempting aggression of any kind.

“I applaud the strong statements of support from the Biden White House for Israel in her hour of need. However, the scale of these attacks means it is likely that Israel will need to wage a sustained military campaign to protect its citizens. Statements of support are fine, but we must follow through with unwavering, resolute, and practical action. America must stand by our ally throughout this operation and beyond as it exercises its sovereign right to self-defense.”

Cornel West: In an interview with POLITICO, West said that “Israel and [the] United States are primarily responsible” for the violence that took place near the Gaza strip that has resulted in more than 1,000 deaths and hundreds more in retaliatory strikes. But, he added, “Hamas must take responsibility for killing innocent folk.”

“The United States bears some responsibility, no doubt about that. And I think that Hamas and [Islamic J]ihad bear responsibility for killing innocent people,” he said. “Palestinians have a right to defend themselves in the same way that Israel has a right to defend itself. There’s no doubt about that. But neither has a right to kill innocent people.”

He added that “the state of Israel has been doing that for 75 years.”

Earlier, West said, “I would stop the killing of innocent people — be they Palestinians or Israelis — by calling for an end to the vicious U.S.-supported Israeli occupation. This violent resistance to oppression is the desperate language of an occupied people.”

Photo credit: From left, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Nikki Haley (Shutterstock/Julie Hansen); Ron DeSantis (Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock)
Analysis | Washington Politics
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