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A Jewish guide to the 2024 GOP presidential contenders as primary season opens in Iowa

(JTA) — With the arrival of the Iowa Caucus on Monday, the 2024 presidential primary season is officially underway — and so is the race to win the votes of Jewish and pro-Israel voters.

Five Republicans are vying to be the candidate to face off against President Joe Biden. Former President Donald Trump maintains a considerable lead in the polls, while challengers Nikki Haley, Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy remain firmly in the race. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson is still in the mix but is polling below 1%.

The Iowa Caucus has kicked off the Republican presidential primary for decades, and its significance is more symbolic than substantive. Of the more than 2,000 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination, Iowa awards only 40.

But Iowa, along with the other early states — the caucus is followed by New Hampshire on Jan. 23 and Nevada Feb. 6 — are a chance for candidates to build momentum and exceed expectations. The Iowa Caucus is not necessarily predictive, however: The GOP’s nominees in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all lost in Iowa.

Israel has featured heavily in the Republican primary, even before the outbreak of the country’s war with Hamas on Oct. 7.

At the first GOP debate in August, Haley and Ramaswamy tangled over their views on Israel aid, and more recent debates have included discussions about Israel’s war strategy, whether to send U.S. troops to Gaza and the possibility of expelling Palesintians from the Gaza Strip. At the first debate after Oct. 7, the Republican Jewish Coalition was named a cosponsor.

As the primary season kicks off, here’s a guide to each of the major candidate’s Jewish bona fides, listed in order of their polling averages.

Donald Trump

Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event at his Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Fla., Nov. 15, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

For some Jewish Republicans, the prospect of another Trump presidency elicits anxiety — especially given the isolationist picture Trump has painted of his potential future administration.

Some insiders have pointed to fear among GOP Jewish donors that Trump has alienated himself from many of the Jewish and pro-Israel advisers who shaped his first-term foreign policy such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. They have been replaced by isolationists who have flirted with antisemitism, such as Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

That said, many Jewish Republicans view Trump as one of the most pro-Israel presidents ever, as does Trump himself. During his first term, Trump fulfilled wishes of the pro-Israel right: moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights and more.

At a rally in Florida just days after Oct. 7, Trump criticized Israeli leadership and praised Hezbollah as “very smart,” drawing ire from his fellow candidates, including DeSantis.

The former president also faces several legal challenges related to his businesses, defamation and sexual assault, classified documents, election subversion and others. Efforts are underway in many states to remove Trump from their ballots.

Ron DeSantis

Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis waves to supporters at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nov. 19, 2022. (Wade Vandervort, /AFP via Getty Images)

DeSantis is viewed by many as a steadfast supporter of Israel. The Florida governor visited Jerusalem last spring, voicing support for West Bank settlements and signing a bill that increased penalties for antisemitic harassment.

But just two weeks after his Israel trip, DeSantis’ education department rejected two new textbooks on the Holocaust as part of his campaign against what he calls “woke indoctrination.”

These two dynamics have come to define DeSantis’ relationship with Jewish voters and groups, especially in Florida, which is home to a sizable Orthodox population. His stance on abortion has also proven unpopular among the Jewish electorate.

Read more about DeSantis’ Jewish record here.

Nikki Haley

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nov. 19, 2022. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, also boasts a solid pro-Israel reputation. In recent weeks, she has emerged as a favorite of Jewish Republican donors looking for an alternative to Trump.

Haley’s tenure at the U.N., during which she prevented Palestinians from ascending to top jobs and quit the body’s Human Rights Council, made her a star at conferences of American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Last summer during the first GOP debate, Haley shot back swiftly after Ramaswamy suggested cutting aid to Israel.

“He wants to stop funding Israel. You don’t do that to your friends,” she said. “It’s not that Israel needs America. America needs Israel.”

More on Haley, the lone woman in the GOP primary, here.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Republican presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in the center, speaks alongside former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vivek Ramaswamy during the NBC News Republican Presidential Primary Debate at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County in Miami, Nov. 8, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The millionaire biotech entrepreneur breaks with his fellow Republicans on the issue of aid to Israel.

Ramaswamy, who has not held elected office, has said he believes Israel should not get more aid from the United States than its Middle Eastern neighbors after 2028, the year the current U.S. aid package of $38 billion is set to expire.

He added that he would work to expand the Abraham Accords, the series of normalization deals between Israel and Arab countries.

“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,” Ramaswamy said in August.

Ramaswamy, who was a member of a Jewish leadership society at Yale University, also raised eyebrows when he appeared on the podcast of an influencer who has accused Jews of owning “almost everything.” A spokeswoman for his campaign said he was unaware of the host’s views on Jews going into the interview.

Here’s our full Jewish explainer on the long-shot candidate.

The post A Jewish guide to the 2024 GOP presidential contenders as primary season opens in Iowa appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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‘American Leadership Will Not Waver’: Senate Passes $95.3 Billion Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan

US President Joe Biden addresses the nation on the Hamas onslaught against Israel. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

After months of negotiations, the Senate passed a $95.3 billion aid package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan on Tuesday by a vote of 70-29. 

The bill, if signed by President Biden, would provide $14 billion in military assistance to Israel to help it replenish the Iron Dome and weapons that can help it defeat Hamas. While US President Joe Biden supports the bill, it is not certain to pass the House of Representatives.

The aid package gives $9.2 billion for humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, along with people in Ukraine and other war zones. However, it is well documented that much of the aid to Gaza does not reach Palestinian civilians but instead goes to Hamas.

The bill also provides about $5 billion toward countering Chinese aggression and $2.5 billion for fighting the Houthis as they continue to terrorize civilian ships in the Red Sea, disrupting global trade.

In the immediate aftermath of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill’s passage showed “that American leadership will not waver, not falter, not fail.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel (R-KY) said, in a statement, that “Our adversaries want America to decide that reinforcing allies and partners is not in our interest, and that investing in strategic competition is not worth it. They want us to take hard-earned credibility and light it on fire.”

“But today,” he wrote, “the Senate responded by reaffirming a commitment to rebuild and modernize our military, restore our credibility, and give the current Commander-in-Chief, as well as the next, more tools to secure our interests.”

More progressive members of the Senate objected to funding Israel in its war against Hamas. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), called the idea of voting for Israel funding “unconscionable.” He wrote, “This bill provides Netanyahu $10 billion more in unrestricted military aid for his horrific war against the Palestinian people. That is unconscionable. I will vote NO on final passage.”

Some conservatives also voted against the bill because it did not include provisions to secure the U.S.’s southern border. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), released a statement making clear that while “It is important that Israel eradicates Hamas, that Taiwan remains resilient against China’s threats, and that Ukraine defeats Russia,” he would vote for the bill “only after America’s border is secured.”

The bill faces an uphill battle to pass in the House, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has suggested provisions will have to be added to secure the southern border for him to bring it to the floor for a vote.

He said, “House Republicans were crystal clear from the very beginning of discussions that any so-called national security supplemental legislation must recognize that national security begins at our own border.“ 

Johnson continued, “In the absence of having received any single border policy change from the Senate, the House will have to continue to work its own will on these important matters.”

The post ‘American Leadership Will Not Waver’: Senate Passes $95.3 Billion Aid Package for Israel, Ukraine, and Taiwan first appeared on

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Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital

Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, a century-old Canadian medical institution originally built for Jewish doctors and patients who faced discrimination but which now treats all the city’s residents, became the latest target of anti-Israel protests on Feb.12. Protesters took over portions of southbound University Avenue with one individual climbing a scaffold and waving the Palestinian flag […]

The post Police are investigating after a group of anti-Israel protesters targeted Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Yeshiva Loses its Ninth Student in War in Gaza

Fallen Israeli soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen. Source: Twitter/X

Israelis on Monday woke up to bittersweet news: the good was the successful rescue of two hostages from the Gaza Strip. The bad, that three soldiers, Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, Lt. Col. Nathaniel Elkoubi, and Maj. Yair Cohen were killed in separate fighting in the Strip.

Chen, 27, from Kfar Saba, was a graduate of a religious Zionist yeshiva in southern Israel which has now lost nine students in the war against Hamas in Gaza.

“We wanted to believe that we had finished paying the heavy price,” the head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Chaim Wolfson, told Hebrew media.

The yeshiva, Yeruham Hesder, is a program for observant Israelis who wish to combine regular military service with Torah study. A longer program than regular enlistments – five years total – there are thousands of students every year participating.

“We have lost a mainstay of the Beit Midrash (study hall). Ziv, as his name is, was all light,” Rabbi Wolfson added. “A loving and beloved man, I will bless you, everything he did was with infinite love. He loved people, loved the Torah, and everything he was involved in was done wholeheartedly.”

Chen was set to celebrate his wedding anniversary this upcoming Sunday with his wife Hillel, his family said.

At the funeral, held on Tuesday in his hometown, accompanied by hundreds of Israelis paying their respects, his uncle, Danny Chen, said about the fallen soldier: “He was a salt of the earth, a brilliant yeshiva student who loved the Land of Israel. He was a walking encyclopedia, very knowledgeable. Saturday night, two weeks ago, I saw him for the last time, always hugging and kissing. An exemplary child, a great loss. We are all shocked and hurt.”

The organization overseeing the Hesder yeshivot, the Hesder Yeshiva Association, released a statement that said, “We bitterly mourn the death of the soldier Maj. Gen. Ziv Chen, a fighter in the Givati ​​Brigade, student of the Hesder Yeshiva Yeruham, who fell in the war. On behalf of the leaders of the Hesder Yeshivas and all the rabbis and students, we embrace the family, the the rabbis of the yeshiva, its students and graduates, and pray for an overwhelming victory of our heroic soldiers over our vile and cruel enemies. May his soul be wrapped in the bundle of life.”

The three soldiers who perished on Monday were the victims of an IED explosion in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the IDF has been concentrating its fighting for the last few weeks.

As mentioned, Chen is the ninth soldier to fall during the war from the Yeroham Yeshiva. The other eight are: Sergeant Ariel Eliyahu, 19, Staff Sergeant Yanon Fleishman, 31, First Sergeant Eitan Dov Rosenzweig, 21, Captain Eitan Fish, 23, Sergeant Yakir Yedidia Shankolevsky, 21, Advanced Sergeant Gideon Ilani, 35, First Sergeant Elisha Levinstern, 38, and First Sergeant Ephraim Yachman, 21.


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