Vivek Ramaswamy backtracks on pledge to cut US aid to Israel

The US Republican presidential candidate initially said the US would no longer need to send aid beyond 2028


MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - AUGUST 23: Republican presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy participates in the first debate of the GOP primary season hosted by FOX News at the Fiserv Forum on August 23, 2023 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eight presidential hopefuls squared off in the first Republican debate as former U.S. President Donald Trump, currently facing indictments in four locations, declined to participate in the event. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

US presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has U-turned on a pledge to cut back US funding to Israel.

Ramaswamy, a long-shot Republican candidate for president, said in an interview earlier this month the US would no longer need to send aid beyond what's already been committed through 2028. 

However, in an interview with Israel Hayom, the 38-year-old businessman appeared to change his stance saying "We will not cut aid as long as Israel tells us so." He also said he believed that US military aid to Israel is mutually beneficial to both nations.

Ramaswamy added: "The reality is that the three billion in aid that we give to Israel is a tiny drop in the bucket for the US military budget.

 "A lot of that work is done here in the United States of America. It's actually accretive to the US and our interests. 

“And so, in a certain way, it would be silly for us to want to skimp or cut that when in fact, it's not just in Israel's interest, but that's in our own interest, even nationally, in building our industrial base."

Ramaswamy’s initial position sparked a backlash from rival Republican candidate Nikki Haley, who accused him of wanting to "defund" Israel at the first primary debate. 

In an interview with Russell Brand, Ramaswamy said the close relationship between the US and Israel had benefited both countries, adding: "There’s no North Star commitment to any one country, other than the United States of America."

He also said that he would be seeking to build on President Trump's record of dealmaking in the Middle East, adding: “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,” he said. “It would be good for everyone.”

But, in an interview with Fox News on Monday evening, Ramaswamy defended his comments about Israel.

He explained: “I said it would be a mark of success if we ever got to a point in our relationship with Israel if Israel never needed the United States' aid.”

"I've travelled to Israel, I have business partners in Israel. The reality is this- by the end of my first term, our relationship with Israel will be stronger than it ever has been because I will treat it as a true friendship, not just a transactional relationship," he continued, adding that "Abraham Accords 2.0" would be his "top priority”.

He also pledged to "make sure that Iran never, ever, ever has nuclear capabilities." 

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.”

He said at the time: “I would not do that 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, right? So it's got to be part of a comprehensive strategy.”

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