US Republicans reiterate support for Israel in televised debate

In their third televised debate, the US Republican presidential candidates reiterated their support for Israel in the war against the radical Islamic group Hamas. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said at the panel broadcast on NBC on Wednesday evening (local time) that he would recommend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “finish the job with these butchers Hamas once and for all.”

“They are terrorists. They massacre innocent people. They would wipe every Jew off the face of the earth if they could,” said the right-wing hardliner, who is in second place in polls behind former President Donald Trump in the race for the Republican presidential nomination .

Israel cannot live with such a “threat” on its side, DeSantis continued. “I’m fed up with people blaming Israel for defending itself.”

Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the televised debate in Miami that she had advised Netanyahu that he had to “finish” Hamas. The US must support Israel with “everything they need.”

“The last thing we should do is tell Israel what it should do,” added the 51-year-old, who is in third place in polls behind Trump and DeSantis. “The only thing we should do is support them in eliminating Hamas.”

Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy said Israel has “the right and obligation to defend itself.” Netanyahu should “smoke out” Hamas.

The presidential candidates were less agreed on further support for Ukraine in the war against Russia. Haley and the former governor of the state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, advocated further military aid for Ukraine. But DeSantis questioned further aid and said the Europeans had to “do their fair share.” Senator Tim Scott said that for further aid there must first be transparency about how the funds are used.

Ramaswamy even criticized Ukraine sharply and called President Volodymyr Zelensky a “Nazi” and a “comedian in cargo pants.” The country is not a “model of democracy”, has banned eleven opposition parties and is taking action against Christians.

Five politicians qualified for the third television debate between the Republican presidential candidates: DeSantis, Haley, Ramaswamy, Christie and Scott. The highly favored Trump stayed away from the debate, as he did in the first two rounds. Instead, he held a campaign event at the same time less than 20 kilometers away in Hialeah in the Miami area.

The primary election for the Republican presidential nomination begins on January 15th in the state of Iowa. The winner of the primary will challenge Democrat Joe Biden, who is seeking a second term in the White House, on November 5, 2024.

Trump has been leading the polls of Republican candidates by a huge margin for months. He currently has an average of between 56 and 58 percent on the websites “RealClearPolitics” and “FiveThirtyEight” – a lead of more than 40 points over second-placed DeSantis.

In the television debates, the other candidates try to present themselves as the best alternative to Trump and, in doing so, get behind all those Republicans who are critical of the right-wing populist ex-president. Many conservatives fear that the scandal-prone Trump, who is highly unpopular among large parts of the US population, could lose to Biden in the presidential election.

DeSantis had long been considered Trump’s most dangerous party rival. However, the governor is weakening in the election campaign, while Nikki Haley is gaining in the polls.