When the war in Ukraine began, so did a philosophical divide in the GOP: the traditional conservative wing supported financial and military support while the more populist, isolationist wing sought to steer clear of the conflict. Now, following Hamas’ barbaric terror invasion of Israel, the divide still shows up, but not as clear-cut. Each candidate agrees on three main points: Israelis have the right to defend themselves; Israel should receive diplomatic support; and President Biden’s policies enabled the attack.
“The Israeli attack was made because we are perceived as being weak and ineffective and a really weak leader,” former President Trump said recently.
GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis chimed in as well, saying, “The Iranians are funding Hamas, Hezbollah, and all these groups and they’re funding it in part with money they’ve gotten from the Biden Administration’s weak policies.”
The division begins to take shape over how far America should go. Nikki Haley has been the most outspoken in that regard.
“This is not just an attack on Israel—this was an attack on America because they hate us just as much,” she says. “And I’ll say this to Prime Minister Netanyahu, ‘finish them, finish them.’ Hamas did this. you know Iran is behind it. Finish them. They should have hell to pay for what they’ve just done.”
Upstart populist Vivek Ramaswamy, however, sees that language as war-mongering rhetoric.
“She’s representative of a broader wing of the Republican Party,” he says. “The Lindsey Graham, John Bolton, Chris Christie, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley wing of the party that is trying to bring back an era of, a bygone era for now, of disastrous U.S. Mideastern engagement, almost as if they’re salivating over the opportunity to go to war again.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence has used the war against Israel to accuse Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis and former President Trump as, “voices of appeasement” when it comes to foreign conflicts like this.
DeSantis pushed back vehemently. “If Mike Pence wants to blame me for what is happening, I think most people would laugh at that. What a joke,” he says.
Trump, the leader of the GOP presidential pack, as you might expect, marches to the beat of his own drum. While he has fully supported Israel, Trump’s drawn criticism from rivals for calling Hezbollah, “very smart.”
“Hezbollah is very smart, they’re all very smart,” Trump said recently. “The press doesn’t it like it when I say it though.”
He also criticized Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he didn’t join forces with Trump to help take out a top Iranian terrorist. “I’ll never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down. That was a very terrible thing, I will say that.”
That led Mike Pence to pounce. “All of this is out of place in this moment,” Pence said. “It’s reckless and irresponsible for former President Trump or any American leader to send any message other than full and unconditional support to Israel.”
As the war in Israel potentially expands, the political fighting inside the GOP will heat up even more, especially if Iran gets involved. At that point, the divisions over what to do next in support of Israel could deepen even further.