Candidates Circle Each Other on Israel Ahead of G.O.P. Debate

The third Republican debate will take place in Miami, and it will feature a smaller field of candidates than the first two faceoffs. The issue that’s likely to dominate the debate is the conflict in Israel and Gaza. “We need to commit ourselves to ensure that good defeats evil.” The question is not whether the candidates are going to support Israel. It’s how strongly they will signal their backing. “The U.S. role here should absolutely be to stand with Israel.” “I stand with Israel.” “America has Israel’s back.” For Nikki Haley, this is really an important opportunity. In some ways, world events are really playing into her assets in this race. She, of course, was Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations. And in that role, she really placed support for Israel front and center. “Israel must stand up for its own survival as a nation, but it also stands up for the ideals of freedom and human dignity that the United Nations is supposed to be about.” One likely exchange to watch out for could be between Haley and Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. DeSantis has attacked Haley for expressing too much sympathy for civilians in Gaza — “America has always been sympathetic to the fact that you can separate civilians from terrorists” — calling her, quote unquote, “politically correct.” “She’s trying to be politically correct.” A super PAC for his campaign is even running ads attacking her along those lines. Already we’ve seen Haley go after Vivek Ramaswamy, the candidate with the least foreign policy experience. “You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows. It shows.” Ramaswamy has had a few viral moments, but he’s really urged Americans to focus more on problems here at home, and has urged the country to stay out of the conflict. “I would love nothing more than for the I.D.F. to put the heads of the top hundred Hamas leaders on stakes and line them up on the Israel-Gaza border. But that is Israel’s decision to make — not ours.” Like the previous two debates, Donald Trump won’t be on the stage on Wednesday night. He’s spoken about the conflict in fairly militaristic terms. “We will fully support the Israelis and their mission to ensure that Hamas is decimated and these atrocities will be avenged.” He’s also had some stumbles. Immediately after the Oct. 7 attacks, Trump praised Hezbollah — “Hezbollah is very smart, they’re all very smart” — and criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing, I will say that.” It’s one of the few issues Republicans have attacked the former president over. “Now is not the time to be attacking our ally.” “Only a fool would make those kind of comments.” And it wouldn’t be surprising to hear more of that kind of criticism from the debate stage on Wednesday night. For Haley, this all presents a pretty interesting opportunity. Many Republicans who would like to see someone other than Donald Trump become the nominee believe the only way to get there is to turn this primary into a one-on-one contest. So if Nikki Haley can use this opportunity to sort of claim the mantle as the most dominant Trump alternative, she could be in a really strong position.

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