Posted on October 20, 2023

Republican 2024 Hopefuls Use Israeli-Palestinian Conflict to Push Hard Line on Immigration

Gram Slattery, Reuters, October 18, 2023

Republican presidential hopefuls are using the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to urge tougher security at the U.S.-Mexico border, in what political operatives call a novel attempt to link a foreign conflict to the domestic debate over immigration.

The reason for that link is two-fold, say the operatives and political strategists involved in the 2024 primary campaign.

Illegal immigration ranks near the top of Republican voters’ concerns, meaning candidates are intent on bringing up the topic on the campaign trail as much as possible, they said.

At the same time, Republican voters are warier of foreign conflicts and less interested in foreign policy than they have been during previous competitive primary elections, said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist.

While Republicans have long portrayed themselves as steadfast defenders of Israel, it is unlikely to be an election-defining issue, he said. That makes candidates more likely to reframe the conflict in domestic terms.

Republicans have often said that militants who support or carry out attacks on Israel will try to slip through the U.S.-Mexico border {snip}

“It’s some pretty creative campaigning to link a foreign conflict to border security, which (the candidates) know Republicans really care about,’ said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster with over 30 years of campaign experience. “We’ll see if it’s effective or not, but it’s certainly innovative.”

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is third in most polls behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, is among several Republican candidates who have used the conflict to push for tightened border controls.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Oct. 8, she said the surprise attack by militants from the Palestinian group Hamas on Israel on Oct. 7 should serve as a wake-up call for the United States to seal off its southern border from potential terrorists.

“(Immigrants) are not being vetted. We don’t need to wait for another 9/11,” she said.

Trump said at a rally in Iowa on Monday he would direct law enforcement to deport immigrants who publicly support Hamas. He also said, without evidence, that Hamas militants were pouring over the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a social media post this month that included images of an explosion in Gaza, the Palestinian territory at the center of the conflict, DeSantis wrote that America was “vulnerable with so many military-age men coming into our country” via the U.S.-Mexico border.