Israel war: Haley seeks foreign policy opening on familiar ground

Israel war: Haley seeks foreign policy opening on familiar ground

October 10, 2023 07:00 AM

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has been out front since deadly Hamas raids in Israel have led to war in the Jewish state and increased tensions with Iran.

“The Iranian regime hates us,” Haley said in Iowa on Monday. “You don’t give money to a regime that hates America.”


“Saturday’s terrorist massacre in Israel, murdering hundreds of innocent Israelis and at least nine innocent Americans, is another moment of moral clarity,” Haley said in a statement earlier before the American death toll rose to 11. “The fanatic Hamas terrorist group must be destroyed. But Hamas is only a small symptom of a larger disease. Iran, Russia, and China are in league together, attacking Americans, American allies, and American values.”

Election 2024 Haley
Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks during a town hall, Monday, Oct. 9, 2023, in Boone, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

“This is a battle between the civilized world and barbarians,” she continued. “America must stand up for our citizens, our values, and our friends.”

There is not a lot of daylight on Israel between the top-tier candidates for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Former President Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) similarly ripped President Joe Biden for agreeing to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian money as part of an exchange for prisoners.

In a campaign swing through New Hampshire, Trump accused Biden of “tossing Israel to the bloodthirsty terrorists and jihadists.” The Hamas attack, he said, was made possible by Biden’s weakness on the international stage.

“Hamas committed these acts for two simple reasons: they hate the Jewish people, and they are evil cowards,” DeSantis said in a statement. “They were empowered by Joe Biden’s appeasement of Iran and a desire to ruin further normalization of ties within the Arab world with Israel.”

But Haley has been trying to make the Republican primary about foreign policy for months, to little obvious effect aside from her debate dustups with entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. She is also seeking to edge the party’s views on these issues back in the George W. Bush direction, an old consensus Trump disrupted and DeSantis hasn’t sought to rejoin.

Ukraine hasn’t proved to be an especially fruitful way to do that, even if her exchanges with Ramaswamy on Ukraine could someday be remembered as the hawkish answer to Ron Paul vs. Rudy Giuliani or Trump vs. Jeb Bush on the Iraq War.

Perhaps Israel is more favorable ground. “What happened in Israel could happen here in America,” Haley said on Meet the Press on Sunday.

Israel isn’t abstract or even especially foreign to many Republican voters, especially evangelicals. “We always have to remember the importance of moral clarity,” Haley said in Sioux City, Iowa. “Knowing the difference between right and wrong and knowing the difference between good and evil.”

Haley added that “you can’t destroy what God has blessed, and God has blessed Israel.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence has tried to make the contrast with other candidates more explicit.

“This is what happens when you have a president like Joe Biden,” Pence said in Glenwood, Iowa, on Saturday. “I also believe this is what happens when you have leaders in the Republican Party that are signaling retreat on the world stage.”

The question is whether the differences on Israel are stark enough to bring out the wider foreign policy disagreements. Trump and DeSantis didn’t sound much different than Haley or Pence when talking about Israel on the campaign trail.

Moreover, Trump as president withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran. He imposed sanctions he describes as reducing the Iranian economy to “rubble.” He ordered the strike that killed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officer Qasem Soleimani in 2020.

Trump also made Haley the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., raising her profile on foreign policy. Here is what she had to say about Trump and Israel at the 2020 Republican National Convention.

“Obama and Biden led the United Nations to denounce our friend and ally Israel,” she said in her speech. “President Trump moved our embassy to Jerusalem, and when the U.N. tried to condemn us, I was proud to cast the American veto.”

Trump, Haley said, “has a record of strength and success” as opposed to Biden’s “record of weakness and failure.”

Nevertheless, the current headlines could get Republicans talking about what Haley wants them to talk about.


“Now is the time to come together and say we need to unite for our brothers and sisters in Israel,” Haley said on Fox News. “We need to unite for freedom.”

And if that unity comes in time for the third Republican presidential debate, so be it.