Vivek Ramaswamy has taken several different positions on military aid to Israel during the Republican presidential primary race. At a debate last week, his call for cutting off aid by 2028 drew criticism from fellow candidate, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. The United States provides over $3 billion in military support annually to Israel, its main national security partner in the Middle East. Israel spends most of that money on products from the U.S. defense industry.
Here is a look at Ramaswamy's evolution on aid to Israel since June:
Position 1: Cut aid to the entire Middle East, including Israel
June 24, 2023: Ramaswamy said he was open to cutting military aid to Israel as "part of a broader comprehensive vision for disengagement"
A voter in Lancaster, New Hampshire, asked Ramaswamy if he supports cutting aid to Israel. The candidate responded, "I think it would have to be part of a broader disengagement with the Middle East. So I wouldn't do it as an isolated policy. I would do it as part of also making sure that we're not leaving other people we've also propped up, from Saudi Arabia to even Iran, in other ways over the years. So it has to be part of a comprehensive strategy. That's why I'm not giving you, like, ‘this one policy, yes,’ because it has to be part of a broader comprehensive vision for disengagement. That I do support. Thank you."
June 30, 2023: Ramaswamy said he is not open to cutting Israel aid, slammed "false reporting"
During an interview on the Breakfast Club radio show, host Charlamagne questioned Ramaswamy about his Israel policies.
Charlamagne: You told a voter that you were open to ending foreign aid to Israel. Then it was reported that it was a misunderstanding.
Ramaswamy: Yeah that was a false reporting, actually.
Charlamagne: Oh you never said that?
Ramaswamy: No, I did not. I said I was open to a broad strategy of disengagement from the Middle East.
Position 2: Wean Israel off of U.S. aid by 2028
August 11, 2023: Ramaswamy said it is time to "get Israel on its own two feet"
Podcast host Russell Brand asked Ramaswamy, "If you would end the war between Ukraine and Russia, or at least stop funding it, what would you do about America's ongoing funding of Israel?"
Ramaswamy responded, "Now, as that relates to Israel, my view is, I asked the question, there's no North Star commitment to any one country other than the United States of America. So what advances American interests? I actually do think our relationship with Israel has advanced American interests. I come out on the side of that. Here's what I want to see happen though. I want to negotiate, I'm a dealmaker, OK? I want to negotiate now Abraham Accords 2.0, get Saudi, Oman, Qatar, Indonesia in there, get Israel on its own two feet. And I believe in standing by commitments that we've already made. So our commitments have I think $38 billion in aid, military support, etc. going in through 2028. I want to get Israel to the place where it is negotiated back into the infrastructure of the rest of the Middle East. We should not be worried about holding one nation or one region hostage over one particular question relating to Palestine. Go to Abraham Accords 2.0, that's good for Israel, it's good for the rest of the Middle East. It's good for us such that come 2028 that additional aid won't be necessary in order to still have the kind of stability that we'd actually have in the Middle East by having Israel more integrated in with its partners. And I think that the Trump administration took a first step, getting Bahrain and some other countries. I think we need Saudi, I think we need Oman, Qatar, Indonesia and others in there. And then I think that puts us in a position and it's everybody's position to say, we don't have to meddle."
August 18, 2023: Ramaswamy said "aid will continue" if his Middle East plan is unsuccessful
"The big difference is to see if the Abraham Accords 2.0 is indeed successful at getting Israel to a stronger place than it is today while relying on U.S. aid," Ramaswamy told the Washington Free Beacon. "If it is, then that is the best-case scenario for all; if it’s not, then the aid will continue."
August 19, 2023: Israel "will not require" aid by 2028
"If we’re successful, the true mark of success for the U.S., and for Israel, will be to get to a 2028 where Israel is so strongly standing on its own two feet, integrated into the economic and security infrastructure of the rest of the Middle East, that it will not require and be dependent on that same level of historical aid or commitment from the U.S.," said Ramaswamy at an event in Atlanta.
August 23, 2023: Ramaswamy said Israel shouldn’t have a "client relationship" with the U.S.
During the Republican primary debate, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said Ramaswamy "wants to go and stop funding Israel."
He responded, "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."
Position 3: Wean Israel off U.S. aid—if Israel signs off
August 28, 2023: Ramaswamy campaign said cutting aid to Israel "makes zero sense" at "any time in the foreseeable future"
Ramaswamy’s website posted a fact-check statement, saying that the candidate "won’t cut aid to Israel until Israel tells the U.S. that it no longer needs the aid. That’s what true friends do: they’re honest with each other. We expect that of our friends in Israel, And [sic] when Israel gets to that point, we should all rightly celebrate it as a mark of achievement and pride for both the U.S. and Israel. That’s what Vivek actually said, so don’t believe the opponents’ lies that he wants to cut aid to Israel—which makes zero sense as a foreign policy priority any time in the foreseeable future."
UPDATE Aug. 30, 4:01 p.m.: Ramaswamy's campaign said it was "inaccurate" that his position on Israel aid has shifted during the campaign.
"Vivek has consistently said he won’t end our aid to Israel until the day when Israel tells the U.S. they are ready for it," said spokeswoman Tricia McLaughlin. "That’s what true friends do: they speak honestly and openly to one another. The U.S. relationship with Israel is a model example of how our international relationships should work and aligns with [Ramaswamy's] vision to revive realism in our foreign policy."