GOP candidates back Israel at debate: ‘Eliminate Hamas,’ ‘strike in Iran,’ oppose ‘neocon establishment’

The Republican presidential candidates, during Wednesday night’s debate in Miami, had a unified message for Israel amid its war with Hamas. 

“Finish the job,” urged Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Eliminate Hamas,” said former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. “Smoke those terrorists,” added entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also defended Israel’s right to self-defense after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. More than 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, were horrifically killed when Hamas infiltrated the country’s southern border and indiscriminately raped, tortured and murdered those they found there. Some 240 people were taken back to Gaza as hostages, according to Israeli officials. 

Moderator Lester Holt asked each candidate what they would tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if they were in the White House now, as the civilian death toll rises while Israel conducts ground operations in Palestinian territory and pummels Gaza with airstrikes. 

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“I would be telling Bibi, finish the job once and for all with these butchers, Hamas,” DeSantis replied. “They’re terrorists, they’re massacring innocent people. They would wipe every Jew off the globe if they could. He [Netanyahu] cannot live with that threat right by his country. Hamas should release every hostage, and they should unconditionally surrender.” 

Haley, citing her experience at the United Nations, said Iran was the mastermind behind the attacks on America’s ally Israel and U.S. forces stationed in the Middle East. Since Oct. 17, U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria have been attacked 42 times, according to the Pentagon. 

“There would be no Hamas without Iran,” she said. “There would be no Hezbollah without Iran. There would not be the Houthis without Iran and there wouldn’t be the Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq that are trying to hit our military men and women if it hadn’t been for Iran.” 

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Haley emphasized that Iran is in an “unholy alliance” with Russia and China and called Israel the “tip of the spear” against Islamic terrorism in the Middle East. 

Scott, who tussled with Haley in the previous debate on Fox Business, echoed her concerns about Iran and accused President Biden and the previous Obama administration of “appeasement” in dealings with the regime in Tehran. Scott has been a vocal critic of the $6 billion in unfrozen assets the Biden administration released to Iran as part of a prisoner deal. 

“There is blood dripping from the hands of President Obama and President Biden,” Scott charged. He called on Biden to “strike in Iran” to stop further attacks on U.S. forces by Iran-backed proxies. 

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Ramaswamy dropped rhetorical bombs on his rivals in his answer. After stating he would go “one step further” than Haley and DeSantis by urging Netanyahu to “smoke those terrorists on his Southern border,” he railed against the “neocon establishment” and called them both “Dick Cheney in three-inch heels.” 

It was a jab at Haley, the only woman on the stage, and DeSantis, who has been accused of wearing lifts in his cowboy boots.

Haley fired back saying her heels were actually five inches and “I don’t wear them unless you can run in them.” 

Christie, meanwhile, was the only candidate to voice moderate criticism of Israel, pointing out that Israeli intelligence failed to detect and prevent the Oct. 7 attack. 

“They failed the people of the state of Israel,” he said. 

Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.

Fox News Digital’s Paul Steinhauser and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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