Facing backlash for his proposal to halt U.S. funding to the Jewish state by 2028, Vivek Ramaswamy’s campaign now says he does not support cutting military funding to Israel unless the country "tells the U.S. that it no longer needs the aid."
The fact-check section on Ramaswamy’s website was updated Monday to say that he "won’t cut aid to Israel until Israel tells the U.S. that it no longer needs the aid."
"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," said Ramaswamy’s campaign.
The statement is a reversal from the candidate’s promise earlier this month that "come 2028, that additional aid won’t be necessary." It is also the clearest sign yet that he supports continuing the funding, which accounts for roughly $3 billion annually and which Israel primarily spends on the U.S. defense industry.
The shift comes as Ramaswamy has come under fire from pro-Israel leaders and his Republican primary opponent Nikki Haley, who said during last week's debate that Ramaswamy was "completely wrong to call for ending America's special bond with Israel."
Ramaswamy hit back at Haley, a fellow Indian-American, in the campaign statement, writing "Keep lying, Nimarata Randhawa." Haley’s maiden name was Randhawa prior to her marriage to Michael Haley in 1996. Her first name is "Nimarata," although she goes by her middle name "Nikki."
His campaign said he would "also partner with Israel to ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear capabilities." He described Israel’s current affiliation with the United States as a "client relationship" and said his policies would turn it into a "true friendship."
Ramaswamy’s conflicting answers on aid to Israel have irked both supporters and opponents of the Jewish state.
Ramaswamy told the Washington Free Beacon last week that he supports cutting off the aid when the current package passed by Congress expires in 2028. He said the aid would be unnecessary because he plans to successfully negotiate new peace treaties between Israel and four Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Indonesia, and Oman—during the first year of his presidency.
"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.
But he said he could also see the aid continuing after 2028 if his plan is ineffective.
"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," he told the Free Beacon earlier this month. "If it is, then that is the best-case scenario for all; if it’s not, then the aid will continue."
In June, Ramaswamy told a gathering in New Hampshire that he would roll back the military aid as "part of a broader disengagement with the Middle East," according to a video of the event obtained by the Free Beacon.
"I would not do that as an isolated policy," Ramaswamy said at the time. "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, right? So it's got to be part of a comprehensive strategy."
He reiterated this in an interview with comedian and podcaster Russell Brand in August.
"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," said Ramaswamy.