Trump accuses Biden of wanting to let Hamas remain in power

Explosive exchange took place during presidential debate on Thursday night


Israel and Jewish issues played a small but explosive role in the presidential debate between US President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump on Thursday night.

In an exchange about what leverage Biden would use to get Hamas to agree to a ceasefire-for-hostages deal that he announced in May, Trump accused Biden of wanting to let Hamas remain in power.

“Israel is the one, and you should let ’em go and let ’em finish the job,” Trump said. “He doesn’t want to do it. He’s become like a Palestinian. But they don’t like him because he’s a very bad Palestinian, he’s a weak one.”

Biden in his preceding answer claimed that he had “saved Israel,” but that the Jewish state had “killed a lot of innocent people.”

“We’re providing Israel with all the weapons they need and when they need them,” Biden said, in apparent reference to accusations that he has been slow-walking arms shipments to Israel. “They’ve been greatly weakened, Hamas, and they should be eliminated. But you’ve got to be careful when using certain weapons among population centres.”

US foreign policy and the Israeli response to the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks occupied only a fraction of the 90-minute debate, which focused largely on domestic issues and the respective records of the two presidents in office.

Biden’s at-times halting and difficult-to-understand responses provoked immediate rebukes from Trump.

“I’m going to continue to move until we get the total ban on the total initiative relative to what we can do with more border patrol and more asylum officers,” Biden said in response to a question about immigration.

“I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence,” Trump replied. “I don’t think he knows what he said either.”

The format of the CNN debate at times also seemed to help Trump, with Biden cutting off his own answers mid-sentence at the end of the time limit when his microphone was about to be muted, per the rules.

“We finally beat Medicare,” Biden said, as part of an unclear answer to a question about the national debt.

“He was right, he did beat Medicare,” Trump replied, transitioning to illegal immigration. “Because all of these people are coming in, they’re putting them on Medicare, they’re putting them on Social Security. They’re gonna destroy Social Security. This man is going to single-handedly destroy Social Security.”

Trump faced tougher questions from Biden after the first 30 minutes of the debate, when the moderators shifted to discussing Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, and his personal and legal conduct.

“How many billions of dollars do you owe in civil penalties for molesting a woman in public, for doing a whole range of things, for having sex with a porn star on a night while your wife is pregnant?” Biden asked. “What are you talking about? You have the morals of an alleycat.”

The weakness of Biden’s overall performance nonetheless prompted questions about whether he can remain the Democratic nominee for president.

“Mark my words … Biden will not be the Democrat nominee,” former Republican candidate for president Nikki Haley wrote on social media. “Republicans, get your guard up!”

No questions in the debate referred to the explosion of antisemitism on college campuses since Oct. 7, but Trump compared that wave of anti-Israel protests to the alt-right, antisemitic demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., in August 2017 that Biden repeatedly alluded to in his closing remarks.

“You talk about Charlottesville, this is 100 times Charlottesville, 1,000 times Charlottesville, the whole country is exploding because of you, because they don’t respect you,” Trump said. “And they have to respect their president.”

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