ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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Long-shot GOP candidate Ramaswamy says Abraham Accords should replace aid to Israel

Businessman who recently closed gap with Desantis but remains far behind Trump suggests that once integrated into Middle East, Israel will no longer need US dollars for defense

Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy waves after taking part in a Fair-Side Chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP/Jeff Roberson)
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy waves after taking part in a Fair-Side Chat with Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds at the Iowa State Fair Saturday, Aug. 12, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP/Jeff Roberson)

JTA — Vivek Ramaswamy, a long-shot contender for the Republican presidential nomination, said in an interview that the United States should reduce its aid to Israel.

In an interview on Rumble, a platform popular with far-right viewers, Ramaswamy said Israel should not get more aid than its Middle Eastern neighbors after 2028, the year that the current 10-year US aid package of $38 billion expires.

He said that he would expand the Abraham Accords, the normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries. After Israel is “more integrated” with its neighboring countries, Ramaswamy said, it should be able to stand “on its own two feet” financially.

“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,” he said.

The policy point separates Ramaswamy from his two main rivals vying for the nomination — Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis, who are staunch supporters of Israel and its military. But it puts him line with a growing number of voices from across the ideological spectrum who say Israel should no longer get as much from the United States as it has.

Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur and investor, appeared on comedian-turned-podcaster Russell Brand’s video show on Rumble. The comments on aid to Israel were a response to a viewer’s question.

He argued that Israel should not receive preferential treatment from the United States, even though “our relationship with Israel has advanced American interests” over time.

“There’s no North Star commitment to any one country, other than the United States of America,” Ramaswamy said.

A soldier awaits the visit of US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to an Iron Dome rocket defense shield battery near the coastal city of Ashkelon, Oct. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Ramaswamy’s popularity is on the rise and he is now close behind DeSantis in national polls. A Fox News survey published Wednesday found 11% of respondents support him, compared to 16% for DeSantis and 53% for Trump.

Ramaswamy mentioned Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Indonesia as countries he would target as Abraham Accords partners; while Saudi Arabia is deep in negotiations with Israel and the United States about a possible Israel treaty, Oman recently criminalized relations of any kind with Israel, though it has hosted Israeli leaders.

Indonesia is also noted for its high levels of antisemitism — FIFA, the world soccer body, this year moved its under-20 World Cup from Indonesia to Argentina after the Southeast Asian nation protested Israel’s inclusion in the event.

Protesters march during a protest against Israel’s participation in the FIFA World Cup Under-20s, Jakarta, Indonesia, March 20, 2023. (AP/Achmad Ibrahim)

US aid to Israel has become more of a campaign issue over the past two presidential contests. In the lead-up to the 2020 election, prominent Democrats such as Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought up the idea of conditioning at least some aid over Israel’s policies, particularly those involving the Palestinians.

In May, Rep. Betsy McCollum, a longtime critic of Israel policy, re-introduced a bill that would condition US aid to Israel. Sixteen progressive House representatives co-sponsored the bill, including other prominent Israel critics such as Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal.

More recently, centrists and people on the right have joined in openly considering reducing aid to Israel, though for different reasons. Last month, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof floated ending aid to Israel entirely.

Ramaswamy — a leading defender of Trump before launching his own campaign — also indicated he would pull back funding and military support for other allies, including Ukraine and Taiwan.

He told Jewish Insider in June that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had allowed Jews and other minorities to be mistreated during the country’s war with Russia. Zelensky himself is Jewish.

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