NASHUA, New Hampshire (JTA) — The spotlight was on Israel at a Republican Party summit in New Hampshire on Friday, where several Republican presidential candidates and other party leaders spoke to hundreds of local voters and GOP members.
The candidates condemned Hamas’ attacks in Israel and stood universally behind the Jewish state, putting the blame for the violence on Iran and its financial backing of Hamas.
Many also pointed to Joe Biden and his administration’s foreign policy decisions.
“There would be no Hamas if it wasn’t for Iran,” Nikki Haley, the United States’ former representative to the United Nations, told the crowd. “And what did the Biden administration do? He loosened all the sanctions that gave billions of dollars to Iran. Interestingly enough, China, number one importer of oil in Iran. Russia, getting their drones from Iran. Look at the triangle, because the triangle is real.”
Hamas’ attack requires “an overwhelming response by the state of Israel,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, citing Hamas’ violent attacks, some of which were filmed and shared on social media, including contested reports of “decapitated babies.”
“The only thing that’s going to end this is for Israel to uproot all the infrastructure that Hamas has done, all the terror accoutrements, and make Hamas no more,” he said.
Like Haley, other candidates sought to tie the conflict in Israel to other global security issues, including Russia and China.
“We have four real bad actors in this world right now: China, Russia, North Korea and Iran,” said Chris Christie, the former governor from New Jersey. “And they are now working together to try to disrupt the world, to fill a vacuum that unfortunately has been left, in my opinion, by our country in world leadership.”
None of the candidates mentioned the Palestinian casualties that have resulted from Israel’s counterattacks or the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Over 400,000 people have been displaced in Gaza so far, according to the United Nations, while Gazans have few places to go following a warning issued by Israel to evacuate the north ahead of an expected ground invasion.
New Hampshire will be the first to vote in the primary elections early in 2024, though an exact date has not yet been set.
As of last week, Donald Trump maintains a strong lead in the Granite State with 49 percentage points followed by Nikki Haley (19%) and Ron DeSantis (10%).
Jews represent less than 1% of the population in New Hampshire, about 10,000 people. With over 70% of U.S. Jews identifying as Democrats in some national surveys, Jewish Republicans were not easy to find at Friday’s event.
But Judy Aron, a state representative from southwestern Sullivan County, was one of them. She said she was “beyond shocked” at the news of Hamas’ attack last week and worries about friends and family living in Israel. In New Hampshire, she says, both Jewish and non-Jewish communities have shown solidarity with Israel and are praying for peace together.
As for the candidates who spoke on Friday, Aron said she was happy with the Republicans’ condemnations of Hamas and expressions of support for Israel. She’s also disappointed with the Democratic Party for not punishing members of their caucus who have come out in support of “Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.”
“It’s definitely a stark difference between the peace that the Trump administration fostered versus this turmoil and hate that has been fomenting with the Biden administration,” she said.