CONCORD, N.H. – Republican presidential candidate Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is spotlighting his opposition to President Biden’s humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
‘They were wrong on the humanitarian aid to Hamas because Hamas is going to use that for terrorism,’ DeSantis said on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News Digital when asked about the $100 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
The president, in announcing the aid last week, said the funding would help support ‘over a million displaced and conflict-affected people with clean water, food, hygiene support, medical care, and other essential needs. The United States provides humanitarian assistance through trusted partners, including U.N. agencies and international NGOs.’
After Hamas militants launched a horrific sneak assault on Israel two and a half weeks ago – in which more than 1,400 Israelis were killed in the worst attack on the Jewish state in a half century – Israel responded with relentless airstrikes on the Gaza Strip that have left nearly 5,000 people dead.
The top contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – including former President Donald Trump, who’s the commanding frontrunner, DeSantis, former U.N. ambassador and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina – have all been calling out Biden for what they charge is backdoor assistance to Hamas, which aims to wipe out Israel.
‘No U.S. tax dollars to the Gaza Strip. Hamas is holding American hostages and Biden wants to fund them?’ DeSantis charged last week.
On Tuesday, DeSantis reiterated ‘you shouldn’t be doing that’ regarding the aid, ‘knowing that Hamas rules the streets.’
Pointing to the over 200 Israelis and some Americans held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, DeSantis said ‘it’s doubly problematic when they still are holding all these people hostages. So wait a minute. How is it humanitarian to be holding these people hostages? That should have been a precondition before they even discussed anything else.’
‘The president has a responsibility to look after Americans, and that includes Americans overseas. And in this case, you need to be engaged in that,’ DeSantis said. ‘Most of what will go on will be things that are not going to be publicized. There’s going to be a lot of things that are going to rely on intelligence. I’d work closely with the Israelis, but I think we both have common interests in this to be able to recover all those hostages.’
DesSantis was interviewed during his latest campaign swing in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary and second overall contest in the GOP nominating calendar.
Haley has also spotlighted her opposition to the humanitarian aid, noting how easily the assistance could fall into the hands of Hamas.
‘Nikki opposes taxpayer dollars for Gaza just like she did when she helped eliminate it at the U.N. The money is too easily diverted to Hamas and is not a good use of tax dollars. Arab countries should step up if they want to help Palestinians as much as they claim,’ Haley’s campaign told Fox News.
And in an interview Monday on the Fox News Channel, Haley reiterated ‘no more money to countries that hate America.’
During her tenure as ambassador to the U.N., Haley slashed U.S. funding to Palestinians in Gaza by defunding the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. The aid was later restored under the Biden administration.
‘I stopped all U.S. taxpayer money going to the Palestinian refugees when I was at the United Nations. This is something that I always said – the Arab countries, it was their responsibility, not the American taxpayer’s responsibility,’ Haley said in an interview last week on Fox News’ ‘Hannity.’
Scott told Fox News in a statement that ‘there should not be a single U.S. dollar that risks ending up in the hands of Hamas. The terrorist organization brutally murdered innocent Israelis and dozens of Americans.’
And Scott vowed to take steps ‘to ensure no future taxpayer dollars make their way into the hands of Hamas.’
Trump has slammed the aid as ‘totally inappropriate.’
The White House has said the aid will be distributed through the United Nations and non-government organizations. But Hamas has a long track record of seizing assistance funneled through the U.N. or relief agencies.
While the Republican presidential contenders are mostly on the same page in criticizing the Biden administration over the humanitarian aid, they’ve traded blows on other aspects of the Israel-Hamas war.
Most notable is the verbal fireworks between DeSantis and Haley and their campaigns and allied super PACs over whether the U.S. should accept any Palestinian refugees fleeing the fighting.