Tech mogul and presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy on Wednesday sparred with Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikky Hailey, who is also running to be her party's candidate in the 2024 presidential election, shedding light on his views that differ from those heard most often by Republicans.
Ramaswamy said he would support ending US aid to Israel ($3.8 billion, the majority of which is reinvested in the US economy). claiming that it was unnecessary because Israel’s relations are increasingly normalized with Arab neighbors. “Our relationship with Israel will never be stronger than by the end of my first term…but it’s not a client relationship, it is a friendship. And you know what friends do? Friends help each other stand on their own two feet.” He said.
Haley lashed out at him. “He wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, he wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel. You don’t do that to friends, what you do instead is you have the backs of your friends,” she said.
Haley has been a staunch supporter of Israel and routinely defended it against what she considered bias. She supported the recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and also supported ending funding to UNRWA, calling it “among the most corrupt and counterproductive of all UN agencies,” She voted against a resolution calling Israeli settlements illegal and had been vehemently opposed to the Iran nuclear deal and to any concessions to Tehran that would ultimately help pave the path to a nuclear weapon.
The exchange begs a look at how the other Republican candidates present on the debate stage in Milwaukee see U.S.-Israel relations, at a time when they are fraught. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has still not been invited to the White House to meet President Joe Biden although such a meeting would have taken place in the early months of his term. Biden has refused to invite Netanyahu while his coalition was pushing legislation through the Knesset, that would in the official view of the United States, change the character of Israeli democracy The Administration repeatedly said bilateral ties were based on mutual values and not just interests.
But the young billionaire had touted his positions often since he threw his hat in the race, appealing to the sentiment of many Republican voters who think the U.S. should no longer act as the world's policeman, stop paying for the defense of Ukraine after the Russian invasion and spend taxpayer dollars at home.
He also supports the Abraham Accords expansion with Oman and Indonesia. He also supports cutting or conditioning aid to Palestinians and defends a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
On Jewish life and antisemitism, Ramaswamy has in fact criticized DeSantis for his legislation which criminalizes the distribution of antisemitic flyers on private property, viewing it as a form of censorship. He has also defended the rights of neo-Nazis to demonstrate in a Jewish area because of “free speech.” In his personal life, he was in fact in a Jewish secret society during his time at Yale and has long-standing relations with many prominent members of the society.
Ramaswamy will find support for his views, among progressive democrats who have been increasingly critical of Israel, among them Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who have been advocating for a Palestinian State and accusing Israel of war crimes and apartheid policies.
All other candidates, although they did not weigh in on the heated conversation on Wednesday, have in the past actively supported Israel in their legislative capacities, or passed laws blocking the Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement in their states.