The five Republican presidential candidates on Wednesday’s debate stage gave staunch support to Israel’s invasion of Gaza, rejecting pleas to rein in the conflict and calling on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to destroy Hamas, the Islamic militant group that killed 1,400 civilians and Israeli soldiers in a surprise attack last month.
Israeli forces have killed more than 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza in their reprisal for that attack, according to the Gazan health ministry.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said he wanted Israel to “finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas,” and denounced critics of Israel’s invasion, saying he was “sick of hearing other people blame Israel for defending itself.”
Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said there must be “no daylight” between the United States and Israel on the war.
Nikki Haley, the former United Nations ambassador, said that Israel must destroy Hamas and that the United States must provide Israel with “whatever they need, whenever they need it.”
“The last thing we need to do is to tell Israel what to do,” Ms. Haley said. “The only thing we should be doing is supporting them in eliminating Hamas.”
Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey set himself apart from Mr. DeSantis, Ms. Haley and Mr. Scott by criticizing Israel’s leaders and intelligence agencies for failing to anticipate Hamas’s devastating attack, mirroring comments Mr. Trump has made.
“They failed here, and they failed the people of the state of Israel,” Mr. Christie said, adding that the United States would have to work with Israel to degrade Hamas and ensure “something like this can’t happen to kill 1,400 individuals again.”
But only Vivek Ramaswamy, the youngest and the most isolationist candidate onstage, struck a different note on the United States’ involvement in the war, criticizing previous American military operations in the Middle East.
“I want to be careful to avoid making the mistakes from the neocon establishment of the past,” Mr. Ramaswamy said. “Corrupt politicians in both parties spent trillions, killed millions, made billions for themselves in places like Iraq and Afghanistan — fighting wars that sent thousands of our sons and daughters, people my age, to die in wars that did not advance anyone’s interest, adding $7 trillion to our national debt.”
He then pivoted from Israel’s war to domestic immigration policy, suggesting that he expected Israel to destroy Hamas on its own while he attacked people trying to immigrate to the United States.
“I would tell him to smoke those terrorists on his southern border,” Mr. Ramaswamy said of Mr. Netanyahu. “And I’ll tell him as president of the United States, I’ll be smoking the terrorists on our southern border. That’s his responsibility. This is our responsibility.”