All Israel

Nikki Haley and Mike Pence receive thunderous applause blasting Vivek Ramaswamy’s eagerness to cut loose key allies like Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan

Neophyte CEO – steadily rising in polls – had a good night talking domestic issues, but was shredded over foreign policy

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks as former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, former biotech executive Vivek Ramaswamy and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley listen during the first Republican candidates' debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – With Israel eight hours ahead of Milwaukee, I had to wake up very early this morning to watch the Republican presidential debate.

But I’m very glad I did.

And if you’re interested in who might be the next U.S. commander-in-chief, and what they think about the issues, including U.S.-Israel relations, I suggest you watch the full GOP debate, as well.

Despite the mini-stump speeches and pre-packaged and poll-tested applause lines, there were also moments of real clarity.

There were moments when the candidates engaged in serious clashes over significant differences in values and policies.

Including the future of America’s relationship with key friends like Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

(From left) Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Vivek Ramaswamy, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on the podiums at Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo: USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)


Among the feistiest and most explosive moments in the debate – and among the most important – were the attacks by Nikki Haley and Mike Pence against newcomer Vivek Ramaswamy over his lack of foreign policy experience and apparent eagerness to abandon three vitally important American allies.

Few Americans had ever heard of, or paid much attention to Ramaswamy, before he entered the presidential contest.

At the beginning, he was polling at 0% nationally.

By June he was at 5%.

The latest Fox News poll published on Aug. 16 put him in double digits – at 11% – though the Real Clear Politics polling average puts him at 7.2%.

But as he gains ground, his views are being carefully scrutinized – and criticized.

Republican presidential candidate Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy gives his closing statement at Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug 23, 2023. (Photo: Mike De Sisti-USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)

As ALL ISRAEL NEWS reported last week, Ramaswamy just announced that he wants to end all U.S. military investments in Israel by 2028 and that Israel is not a particularly special or “North Star” country for the U.S.

On Aug. 17, Ramaswamy announced on CNN that he would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep large swaths of Ukraine – including Crimea and parts of the Donbas region – in order to achieve a cease-fire, and would promise to never let Ukraine enter the NATO alliance. And in last night’s debate, he said he would not give Ukraine another penny of U.S. defense aid, saying, as a former NATO supreme allied commander: “This kind of foolish appeasement was attempted in the 20th century and you can drop a plumb line to the rise of fascism and the Second World War. Never a good idea to give in to liars and bullies like Putin.”

On Aug. 14, Ramaswamy announced he would not allow communist China to invade the democratic island of Taiwan until after his first term in the White House ends in 2028 and the U.S. achieves “semiconductor [chip] independence,” but that after that all bets are off and that he would not defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.

This wasn’t a slip of the tongue – just last week, Ramaswamy doubled down on his position that he would not defend Taiwan after 2028.


Let me first look at the exchanges between Haley and Ramaswamy.

It was a fascinating study in contrasts at multiple levels.

To be sure, both Haley and Ramaswamy are Indian-Americans who were born in America but whose families emigrated from India.

But that’s where the similarities end.

Haley is 51.

Ramaswamy is 38.

Haley has devoted her life to the public sector, serving from 2005 to 2011 as a member of the South Carolina legislature, from 2011 to 2017 as the popular and successful governor of South Carolina, and from 2017 through 2018 as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations during the Trump-Pence administration.

Ramaswamy, by contrast, has devoted his life to the private sector, starting several highly successful companies, creating lots of jobs, and becoming enormously wealthy in the process, before becoming the author of several best-selling books. Forbes magazine puts his net worth at $630 million.

Haley argues her long experience in government – both in state government, as well as on the national and international stage, has well-prepared her to be president.

Ramaswamy, she contends, is a political neophyte who has never served in government and has reportedly only voted for a president twice in his life, though Ramaswamy argues that America desperately needs an “outsider,” and someone from a new generation, as president and commander-in-chief.

Another key contrast – Haley is an Evangelical Christian with a long record of supporting Israel.

Ramaswamy is a devout Hindu who says he has been to Israel more than most of the other GOP candidates in the race.

Those contrasts were on vivid display last night.

Vivek Ramaswamy and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley debate each other at the first Republican candidates' debate of the 2024 U.S. presidential campaign in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 23, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Brian Snyder)


“The problem that Vivek doesn’t understand is, he wants to hand Ukraine to Russia, he wants to let China eat Taiwan, he wants to go and stop funding Israel,” Haley charged. “You don’t do that to friends.”

Ramaswamy tried to push back at Haley, calling her a “professional politician” who is “pushing this lie” and this “false premise” all week.

Yet Haley kept attacking.

“You want to go and defund Israel,” Haley charged.

“You have no foreign policy experience, and it shows,” she said. “It shows.”

Ramaswamy defended himself by arguing that he would bring more Arab countries into the Abraham Accords.

This will make Israel safer, he argued, and thus alleviate Israel’s need to receive billions of dollars of U.S. military aid.

“Our relationship with Israel would never be stronger than by the end of my first term,” Ramaswamy said. “But it’s not a client relationship, it’s a friendship and you know what friends do? Friends help each other stand on their own two feet.”

“I will lead Abraham Accords 2.0,” he vowed. “I will partner with Israel to make sure Iran never is nuclear armed.”

“You know what I love about them [Israelis]?” the businessman asked. “I love their border policies. I love their tough-on-crime policies. I love that they have a national identity, and an Iron Dome to protect their homeland. So, yes, I want to learn from the friends that we’re supporting.”

“No, you want to cut the aid off,” Haley shot back.

“And let me tell you, it’s not that Israel needs America, it’s that America needs Israel,” she quickly added. “They’re on the frontline” of America’s defense against Iran.

Throughout the debate, there were numerous points when Ramaswamy received enthusiastic applause.

But this exchange was definitely not one of them.

With each blow that Haley landed, attacking the CEO’s approach towards Israel, she received thunderous applause and cheers from the Republican audience of some 20,000 people.


Haley also attacked Ramaswamy for saying he would let Russian President Vladimir Putin keep large sections of Ukraine in order to broker a cease-fire, and that he would not spend any more U.S. tax dollars to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian invasion.

“Today, Ukraine is not a priority for the United States of America,” Ramaswamy said.

“And I think that the same people who took us into the Iraq war, the same people who took us into the Vietnam War, you cannot start another no-win war,” he added. “And I do not want to get to the point where we're sending our military resources abroad when we could be better using them here at home to protect our own borders, protect the homeland. All right? That will be my top priority in foreign policy, protecting this homeland.”

Haley hit him hard.

Republican presidential candidate former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley gives her closing statement at Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo: Mike De Sisti-USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)

“The American president needs to have moral clarity,” she argued. They need to know the difference between right and wrong. They need to know the difference between good and evil.”

“When you look at the situation with Russia and Ukraine, here you have a pro-American country that was invaded by a thug,” she continued. “So, when you want to talk about what has been given to Ukraine, less than 3.5% of our defense budget has been given to Ukraine. If you look at the percentages per GDP, 11 of the European countries have given more than the U.S.”

“But what's really important is go back to when China and Russia held hands, shook hands before the Olympics and named themselves unlimited partners. A win for Russia is a win for China. We have to know that Ukraine is the first line of defense for us. And the problem that Vivek doesn't understand is he wants to hand Ukraine to Russia. He wants to let China eat Taiwan. He wants to go and stop funding Israel. You don't do that to friends. What you do instead is you have the backs of your friends. Ukraine is a front line of defense.”

“Putin has said if Russia – once Russia – takes Ukraine, then Poland and the Baltics are next. That's a world war. We're trying to prevent war. Look at what Putin did today. He killed Prigozhin. When I was at the UN, the Russian ambassador suddenly died. This guy [Putin] is a murderer. And you are choosing a murderer over a pro-American country.”

Ramaswamy’s response?

“I wish you well on your future career on the boards of Lockheed and Raytheon,” effectively accusing Haley of being more interested in helping American defense contractors rather than hard-working American people even though Haley isn’t actually on the board of either.


Former Vice President Mike Pence also hit Ramaswamy hard – and repeatedly – over his willingness to abandon the Ukrainian people, who he passionately argued are strong, pro-American allies.

“Let me be clear,” Pence – brimming with righteous indignation we rarely see from the “Midwestern Nice” former VP – told Ramaswamy. “Anyone who thinks we can’t solve our problems here in the United States and be the leader of the free world has a pretty small view of the greatest nation on earth. We can do both, Vivek.”

Ramaswamy responded, “That is incorrect.”

But Pence received huge applause.

And he wasn’t finished.

“Vivek, if we do the giveaway [of large parts of Ukraine] that you want to give Putin,” Pence continued, “it’s not going to be too long before he rolls across a NATO border, and frankly our men and women of our armed forces are going to have to go and fight him. I want to let the Ukrainians fight him and drive Putin and the Russians back into Russia so our troops don’t have to make the fight.”

This, too, received huge applause and was one of Pence’s strongest moments of the night.

Ramaswamy tried to counter by saying the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990 [actually, it collapsed on Christmas Eve of 1991] and that Pence’s thinking was, essentially, pathetically outdated.

But Pence corrected him again.

“Do you have any idea what Vladimir Putin’s aims are?” he asked. “Vladimir Putin has been saying he wants to reestablish the old Soviet sphere of influence.”

Pence added that Putin is “a dictator and a murderer and the United States of America needs to stand against authoritarianism and Putin.”

Republican presidential candidate former Vice President Mike Pence (left) and Republican presidential candidate Biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy argue with Republican presidential candidate Florida governor Ron DeSantis in between at Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo: Mike De Sisti/ USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)


While Nikki Haley and Mike Pence both had strong nights, they were not alone.

I thought Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – who served in the U.S. military during the Iraq war – was especially strong in several key exchanges, especially his vow to use the U.S. military to attack drug cartels and terrorists trying to enter the U.S. across the Mexican border.

Given the plot of my most recent novel – THE LIBYAN DIVERSION – I was particularly impressed by his position on protecting the U.S. border with Mexico.

And, again – to be fair – on a range of domestic policy issues I thought Vivek had a strong night and might very well get a further bounce in the polls.

Surprisingly lackluster, I thought, was South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott.

He’s a strong Evangelical Christian and usually has a very strong, winsome, and passionate voice. But he didn’t have a particularly strong night.

The others, honestly, barely registered.

Republican presidential candidate South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott gives his closing remarks at Fiserv Forum during the first 2023 Republican presidential debate, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo: Mandatory Credit: Mike De Sisti/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters)


All that said, the big question is whether any of these candidates have a prayer in taking the GOP nomination away from Donald J. Trump.

Trump has a huge lead in the polls.

So big that he says he has no interest in participating in any of the debates.

That’s a typical front-runner position.

But it’s a mistake.

Everyone running for president should routinely make himself or herself available for tough questions from citizens, journalists and other candidates.

True, because Trump is facing four separate indictments, his lawyers may be telling him not to expose himself to questions that could affect his various criminal trials.

Still, if he wants the nomination, he shouldn’t try to coast to the finish line.

He should let people ask anything they want and earn the nomination with every single answer.

ALL ISRAEL NEWS is a non-profit and thus non-partisan news organization.

We don’t endorse candidates.

Like a baseball umpire, we watch closely and call balls and strikes the way we see them.

And we will be giving special attention to candidates in both parties as they speak about Israel and matters affecting the Jewish state and the broader Middle East.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.

All Israel
Receive latest news & updates
    A message from All Israel News
    Help us educate Christians on a daily basis about what is happening in Israel & the Middle East and why it matters.
    For as little as $5, you can support ALL ISRAEL NEWS, a non-profit media organization that is supported by readers like you.
    Donate to ALL ISRAEL NEWS
    Popular Articles
    Latest Stories