Vivek Ramaswamy Touched the Third Rail on Israel. He’s Surely Going to Hear About It on Debate Night

The rising Republican candidate suggested an eventual end to US military aid to Israel, prompting a strong rebuke from conservatives, including competitor Nikki Haley.
Biotech millionaire and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy acknowledges his supporters at the conclusion...
Biotech millionaire and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy acknowledges his supporters at the conclusion of one of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds' "Fair-Side Chats" at the Iowa State Fair on August 12, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Vivek Ramaswamy is having a moment right now; his poll numbers have risen in the GOP primary field, and expectations are high for him going into the GOP debate—all of which means he has a growing target on his back. Even so, the 38-year-old biotech entrepreneur running as an “America First” crusader isn’t shying away from controversy in the Republican field, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The candidate has suggested he would allow China to invade Taiwan, as long as the United States has its own independent supply of semiconductors by 2028, and proposed an appeasement plan for Vladimir Putin that would cede parts of the Donbas region to Russia and prevent Ukraine from joining NATO. And now, ahead of the Wednesday debate, Ramaswamy has touched on an even bigger third rail in conservative American politics: proposing an eventual end to military aid to Israel.

“If we’re successful, the true mark of success for the US, 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 US,” Ramaswamy told the Washington Free Beacon on Saturday.

Conservatives, and at least one Republican presidential hopeful, Nikki Haley, were quick to jump on the comments. Haley, who occupies the race’s neoconservative lane, issued a statement calling Ramaswamy “completely wrong.” “This is part of a concerning pattern with Vivek,” the former US ambassador to the UN under Donald Trump said Monday. “Between abandoning Israel, abolishing the FBI, and giving Taiwan to China, his foreign policy proposals have a common theme: they make America less safe.”

Ramaswamy has yet to react to Haley’s jabs, but he may be forced to when they square off in the first Republican debate Wednesday. Given that Trump, the race’s leading candidate, has opted not to participate in the debate, Ramaswamy and Florida governor Ron DeSantis will likely see the brunt of attacks from underachieving rivals.

Meanwhile, Mark Levin, a popular right-wing talk radio host, condemned Ramaswamy’s positions on Israel and Taiwan in a Monday post on X. “Not good. Awful, actually,” Levin wrote. “Our relationship with Israel is very special. It should be treated like, say, Yemen? He threw Taiwan under the bus, too.” And in an open letter directed at Ramaswamy, the Republican Jewish Coalition urged the candidate to rethink his stance on US aid to Israel. “The appearance of abandoning Israel would seriously harm Israel in military, diplomatic, and economic terms,” wrote Matthew Brooks, the organization’s chief executive. “In this dangerous time, such a move would very decidedly not be in America’s best interest.”

Israel, which human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused of imposing a brutal regime of apartheid on Palestinians, has received more cumulative military aid from the US since World War II—about $3.3 billion annually—than any other country. Despite international concern around Israel’s systemic occupation, overwhelming majorities in both the GOP and Democratic Party strongly favor the relationship, making Ramaswamy an outlier even among other America First Republicans. (Trump, for instance, has strongly touted his relationship with Israel, claiming in a Truth Social post last year, “No President has done more for Israel than I have.”)

As for his position on Taiwan, Ramaswamy has called for “exporting our Second Amendment” to Taiwan by arming the island nation’s citizenry. Such a policy, he said Monday on CNN, would be “a relatively free or low-cost” way to deter China from invading Taiwan, though he clarified it would not be sufficient as a policy on its own. He has also said that, if elected, he would draw down US defenses of Taiwan beginning in 2028, when he believes the US could build its own semiconductors. (Taiwan produces a majority of the world’s semiconductors, including about 90% of the most advanced semiconductors.)

Xi Jinping should not mess with Taiwan until we have achieved semiconductor independence, until the end of my first term when I will lead us there,” he told right-wing commentator Hugh Hewitt last week. In response, one conservative columnist, Seth Mandel, concluded that Ramaswamy “will never be ready for prime time,” adding, “The leader of the free world cannot base diplomacy and alliance-building on moon shots.”

But Ramaswamy’s unorthodox policy prescriptions have earned him valuable attention and airtime on Fox News. Over the past week, Ramaswamy’s name received at least 200 mentions on the network and he personally appeared on Fox programs half a dozen times, according to a Daily Beast report Monday that cited data from the media monitoring service TVEyes. “The Ramaswamy/Murdoch ‘get-to-know-you session’ is really paying off today lmao,” a Fox News producer told the Daily Beast, referring to a meeting News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch had with Ramaswamy earlier this year. Moreover, polling of Republican voters suggests Ramaswamy has struck some kind of chord. An Emerson College survey conducted this month showed support for his primary campaign at 10%, tying him with DeSantis, who had spent months commanding the second-place spot in the same poll. Ramaswamy’s upward trend was also captured in a recent Fox News poll, which put support for him at 11%; though, he was still trailing DeSantis, 16%, and Trump, 53%