Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy told a voter on the campaign trail that he was open to cutting Israel off from foreign aid, but later clarified to the Washington Free Beacon that he supports U.S. aid to the Jewish state so long as aid continues to flow to other countries in the region.
Pressed at a New Hampshire campaign event on whether he would be willing to withdraw funding for Israel, Ramaswamy said he would draw back the foreign aid as "part of a broader disengagement with the Middle East."
"I would not do that as an isolated policy," Ramaswamy said on Saturday, according to a video of the event obtained by the Free Beacon. "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. It has to be part of a comprehensive strategy."
While Ramaswamy has tied himself closely to Trump on the campaign trail, donning a Trump hat and promising to pardon the former president if he's convicted, his advocacy for slashing foreign aid to the entirety of the Middle East, including Israel, seems to differentiate the two. While Trump is skeptical of foreign aid, he was a staunch supporter of Israel, signing the largest ever aid package for the Jewish State into law in the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act.
Ramaswamy, who is also a strong critic of U.S. financial support for Ukraine's war with Russia, says his comments at the campaign event were actually a show of support for Israel. Ramaswamy told the Free Beacon on Tuesday that he was not expressing support for cutting Israel funding, adding that he was "opposed to selectively criticizing U.S. aid to Israel. That was my point."
"When someone asked about aid to Israel, I said we can’t narrowly criticize our financial aid to Israel in isolation when our other policies of engagement in the Middle East have indirectly contributed to the threats that Israel faces (e.g. the disastrous Iran nuclear deal which Iran regularly cheats on)," said Ramaswamy.
The clarification comes as Ramaswamy, who describes himself as an "American nationalist," has seen an uptick in support. Ramaswamy is polling at six percent among Republican primary voters, according to a Morning Consult survey on Tuesday, just one point below former Vice President Mike Pence and three points ahead of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.
While a growing segment of far-left Democrats objects to funding Israel, it has almost universal support among Republican lawmakers.
Ramaswamy told the voter who asked about Israel that all foreign spending will come under the microscope if he's president.
"My view is we need to stand for American interests, full stop. And the answer is, I don't believe in answers ad infinitum," said Ramaswamy at the event on Saturday, according to a video of the exchange obtained by the Free Beacon. "My question number one, in foreign policy, will be how do we advance the interests of Americans who actually live here? That sets a really high bar before giving a lot of money to other countries, even when it comes to foreign aid."
"Even in Africa and other parts of the world. I think those are problems that need to be solved, but using the U.S. taxpayer, military resources to do it has to answer a narrow question of how it actually advances the American interest," he added. "So that's my litmus test for every use of federal dollars abroad, full stop."