Israel is poised to be a catalyst that could propel a 2024 political contender to the highest office in the land. Presidential primaries are set to commence in February 2024, and those still in the hunt must have a succinct, stable, unequivocal message for US voters, global enemies, and allies to ponder if they hope to change the guard at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Choose Your Words Carefully
To “anyone thinking of taking advantage of this situation,” President Joe Biden has warned, “I have one word: Don’t.” The Biden administration is taking a careful stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, seemingly checking opinion polls. In 2021, during another dustup between the Gaza terrorist group and Israel, the commander-in-chief made the two simply “hug it out.” It was a slick move that ended in a peaceful negotiation. But after the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history, that strategy is no longer viable, and now the quiet part is being said out loud: Defend yourself, but don’t go crazy. Biden appears to love to travel to conflicts and has now arrived in Israel.
Former President Donald Trump, once the beloved champion of Israel, insulted the nation and Biden in the same breath. During remarks in Adel, IA, he intoned:
“So, I fought for Israel like no president ever before, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, which is a big deal. And [I] even recognized Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights, something that they never even thought — we gave them that.”
Those remarks attempted to walk back his scolding of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu just days ago, when he told Brian Kilmeade of Fox News, “[Netanyahu] has been hurt very badly because of what’s happened here. He was not prepared. He was not prepared, and Israel was not prepared.” Doubling down, No. 45 said Hezbollah terrorists were “very smart” because they would take the hint from a Defense Department official that a two-front war would seriously imperil Israel.
Thus appeared the first opening for GOP contenders to land some darts against the popular frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary.
All Eyes on Israel
In unison, the Republican presidential candidates fully support Israel’s fight against Hamas after the brutal attack. They differ, however, in approach. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had more than just a fair warning that as president he would be active in deeds and words. “There is no two-state solution,” DeSantis said. “Those Palestinian Arabs in places like the Gaza Strip, they don’t want their own state as much as they just want to eradicate the Jewish state.” He added that Israel “has the duty to defend itself with overwhelming force.”
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley had a different approach: Send the frozen $6 billion designated for Iran to Israel. In a social media post, Haley balked at sending troops but said that the United States could and should send weapons and share intelligence. “End American taxpayer support for all Palestinian entities or United Nations-backed entities that side with Hamas or fail to denounce anti-Semitic activity,” she wrote.
Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy’s contribution was to expound that, “My moral obligation as a presidential candidate is to the American people.” But he pivoted to say the Jewish nation has every right to defend itself: “We have to provide Israel with diplomatic support, munitions support as needed.”
And then there are the independent candidates. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. stands solidly by Israel. On the X platform, Kennedy steered clear of advocating for US participation in the war but made no bones about his support: “This ignominious, unprovoked, and barbaric attack on Israel must be met with world condemnation and unequivocal support for the Jewish state’s right to self-defense. We must provide Israel with whatever it needs to defend itself — now.”
And Cornel West – formerly of the Green Party – whose favorite word is “no.” No aid. No funding. Oh, yes, defund the military, “dismantle the US empire,” and end the Cuban embargo to boot. His platform lists as a priority the “expeditious and responsible closure of global US military bases.” He will not help anyone fight for much of anything and released this statement: “The escalation of the barbaric violence in the Middle East must stop. The vicious Israeli occupation and the ugly Palestinian retaliation results in the killing of precious innocent people on both sides. We must have a lasting peace based on justice!”
Campaign Rhetoric or Actionable Promises?
Trump may have ticked off Netanyahu with his callous statements, Biden is visiting Israel, and West will continue tilting at the windmills of justice. The Republican candidates have clarified the muddy waters, but will they back words with actions as the conflict further divides global allies and Election Day comes into view? It’s a test that whoever will be president in January 2025 must pass with flying colors.