What the GOP debate candidates have said about the Israel-Hamas conflict

The onset of the IsraelHamas conflict was a major theme of the third Republican primary debate on 8 November, with candidates declaring their support for Israel in varying degrees.

Since the war began in early October, there have been disagreements regarding how the US should back Israel as an ally while also trying to protect the innocent Palestinians caught in the crossfire.

Candidates were under more pressure this time around because they were given more time to answer thoughtfully thanks to the dwindling number of participants who met the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) stricter criteria.

Just five candidates, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, qualified for the third debate.

Former president Donald Trump, who technically qualified, refused to join his opponents on stage. Though, Mr Trump has still voiced his opinion on the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Here’s what the GOP candidates have said about the war.

Mr Trump has been both somewhat critical and supportive of Israel.

At first, he asserted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was unprepared for the attack, pushing some of the blame onto him. During that statement, Mr Trump also called Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organisation designated a terrorist group, “smart”.

A spokesperson for Mr Trump later clarified that the ex-president was only “pointing out how incompetent Biden and his administration were by telegraphing to the terrorists an area that is susceptible to an attack” and did not mean Hezbollah was “good”.

After receiving backlash, Mr Trump changed his tune by condemning the attack and expressing support for Israel on Truth Social.

He has also claimed that Hamas’ attack on Israel would not have happened under his administration, much like he has when speaking about Ukraine.

The Florida governor has taken a pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian approach.

Mr DeSantis has said he believes that the US should provide support to Israel but does not believe US service members should be on the ground.

“As commander-in-chief, I am not going to put our troops in harm’s way unless you are willing to defend them with everyone you have,” Mr DeSantis said during the debate. “Biden has ‘em out there. They are sitting ducks.”

However, Mr DeSantis did boast about planes, contracted by Florida, that brought “hospital supplies, drones, body armour and helmets” to first responders in Israel.

Republican presidential hopeful and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks at a campaign event on Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023

An Israeli diplomat contradicted the statement, saying the governor’s office sent medical supplies that were requested by the health ministry and was contacted to ensure a flight carrying rifle parts could leave from Miami.

Mr DeSantis has also condemned antisemitism in the US and around the world in the wake of the attacks and said the US should not accept innocent civilians from Gaza as refugees.

He ordered two Florida universities to deactivate their chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine and also baselessly claimed that Gaza citizens “are all antisemitic”.

Ms Haley is supportive of Israel but believes the US should only play a minor role in the conflict.

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov Ron DeSantis speaks at the Heritage Foundation on October 27, 2023 in Washington, DC

Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during a Republican presidential primary debate hosted by FOX Business Network and Univision, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023, at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

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