During the first GOP primary debate on Wednesday, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley lambasted tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy over some of his more unorthodox and non-interventionist foreign policy ideas, including his call to cut U.S. financial support for Israel.
The questioning of U.S. aid to Israel proved to be too much for Haley, and she has continued her critiques of Ramaswamy's foreign policy positions in the days following that debate, according to Fox News.
"You saw on the debate stage, there was a lot of narcissism up there. I mean, there was a lot of arrogance," Haley said of Ramaswamy in a post-debate interview with Fox News, which hosted the Wednesday event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. "You can't assume that America is just going to be fine all on our own. We need allies, and we have not had a better ally than Israel."
"He doesn't understand America needs Israel. It's not just that Israel needs America," she continued, echoing what she had said during the debate. "They are the front line of defense when it comes to taking on Islamic terrorism. They're the front line of defense when it comes to taking on Iran."
"They've been an amazing partner with us. And as president, I will absolutely have the backs of Israel so that they can have the back of America," Haley added.
According to The Times of Israel, Ramaswamy had separated himself from virtually all of the other Republican candidates in terms of foreign policy during an interview several days prior to the GOP debate when he questioned the wisdom of continued U.S. financial aid to nations like Israel and Ukraine, among others.
Haley referenced his remarks during the debate and said, "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."
Amid pushback from Ramaswamy, she retorted, "You want to go and defund Israel. You have no foreign policy experience and it shows."
Ramaswamy defended his position, however, and asserted that he sought to foster a better "friendship" instead of a "client relationship" between the U.S. and Israel, vowed to expand upon the Abraham Accords to bolster relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and praised the Jewish state for its tough border and crime policies and strong "national identity," among other things.
But Haley would have none of that and insisted, "No, you want to cut the aid off, and let me tell you it’s not that Israel needs America, it’s that America needs Israel. They’re on the frontline of defense to Iran."
The Fox News report noted that in response to Haley's critiques both during and after the debate, the Ramaswamy campaign's communication director, Tricia McLaughin, said of Haley, "She is intentionally misleading people and it should be called out for what it is."
Ramaswamy himself issued a statement to the outlet to clarify his position on Israel and said, "By the end of my first term, the US-Israel relationship will be deeper and stronger than ever because it won’t be a client relationship, it will be a true friendship. The centerpiece of my Middle East policy in Year 1 will be to lead 'Abraham Accords 2.0' which will fully integrate Israel into the Middle East economy. A brighter future of Israel and good for the US."
It remains unclear at this point how the mid-debate squabble between Haley and Ramaswamy over funding for Israel and other foreign policy matters will play among the Republican electorate as public polls that include reactions to the debate have yet to be completed and published.
As of now, however, the RealClearPolitics average of polls places Ramaswamy in third place overall among the field of candidates with 7 percent and Haley in fifth place with 3.7 percent support -- both of whom trail far behind former President Donald Trump in first place with 55.1 percent support and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in second with 14.5 percent support.