On February 21, 2023, wealthy biotech mogul Vivek Ramaswamy, 38, declared his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2024 on the Tucker Carlson Show. Carlson no longer has his show, but Ramaswamy, the son of Hindu Tamil Brahmin immigrant parents who settled down in Cincinnati, Ohio, is still in the run – albeit in the mid-single digits.
In an August 17 interview with British activist comedian Russell Brand, Ramaswamy responded to Brand’s question about US foreign aid to Israel: “There’s no North Star commitment to any one country other than the United States of America.” He said he would honor the Obama aid package of $3.8 billion a year for ten years until it expires in 2028, and that’s that, because, as the candidate put it, “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 into with its partners.”
Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, an old and trusted friend of Israel, came out swinging at Ramaswamy, saying, “Vivek Ramaswamy is completely wrong to call for ending America’s special bond with Israel. Support for Israel is both the morally right and strategically smart thing to do. Both countries are stronger and safer because of our iron-clad friendship. As president, I will never abandon Israel.”
Good to know.
Ramaswamy, who claims to be a Trump supporter, also declared: “I want to go even further than Trump on the Abraham Accords. As president, I want to achieve the Abraham Accords 2.0 and bring in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Indonesia. It would be good for everyone.”
He also said these magic words: “I want to get these countries past the Palestinian situation being a hold-up to talks of a broader peace.”
Matthew Brooks, CEO of the Republican Jewish Coalition decided to set the record straight on US aid to Israel, in an open letter to Ramaswamy, which he began: “Dear Vivek, I enjoyed speaking with you recently. In light of your comments on cutting US aid to Israel, I want to share some additional thoughts and open the conversation to a wider audience.”
Brooks proceeded, and I quote him extensively because I have also been making the same points in this publication, only to hear so many people, mostly on the left, repeat the same silly stuff which is bordering on anti-Israel politics:
First, there have been suggestions that Israel has the funds itself to “go shopping” in the world’s arms markets and therefore doesn’t need American monetary assistance. The fact is that Israel spends 85% (and as of Fiscal Year 2028 will spend all) of the aid it receives from the US in the US; that is a boost for us. And, with so many American allies eager to buy American military products (with foreign aid or without) it makes much more sense to keep Israel in the family of countries with an interest in buying and using American capabilities.
Second, because Israel spends the money in the US, the two countries have developed a deep connection at every level: development and production of weapons, strategy and tactics, testing and training, and intelligence sharing. In addition, Israel has battle-tested a number of important systems, testing that has benefitted US forces. It is in America’s interest to continue the close cooperation that currently contributes significantly to our own expertise. In addition, now that Israel is part of CENTCOM, we should want to have the closest possible relationship with Israel, our most valuable ally against Iran, which is the chief threat to US interests in that part of the globe.
Finally, this is not the time for the US to take an action that would be universally perceived by Israel’s enemies as a weakening of the US-Israel relationship. Iran already controls Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip. The Iranian regime has Jordan and the West Bank in its sights. Israel may soon be surrounded by Iranian client states. The appearance of abandoning Israel would seriously harm Israel in military, diplomatic, and economic terms. In this dangerous time, such a move would very decidedly not be in America’s best interest.
On July 23, I quoted here Tablet’s Jacob Siegel and Liel Leibovitz, who explained:
As the costs to Israel of US aid have skyrocketed over the past decade, the benefits of the relationship with the US have only grown larger. Aid is popular with key voting blocs (few of them Jewish). It functions as a lucrative backdoor subsidy to US arms makers and provides Congress and the White House with a tool to leverage influence over a key strategic ally. The Israeli military, often ranked as the fourth-most powerful in the world, has become an adjunct to American power in a crucial region in which the US has lost the appetite for projecting military force. Israeli intelligence functions as America’s eyes and ears, not just in the Middle East but in other key strategic theaters like Russia and Central Asia, and even parts of Latin America. Controlling access to the output of Israel’s powerful high-tech sector is a strategic advantage for the US that alone is worth many multiples of the credits Israel receives. Meanwhile, the optics of bringing the snarling Israeli attack dog to heel helps credential the US as a global power that plays fair—but must also be feared.
I wish Brooks had told Ramaswamy the US needs the aid package as much as Israel does, and maybe even a little more.