Haley is ‘best candidate for Jewish Republicans’: RJC board members

Letter from three prominent figures urges colleagues to back the former U.N. ambassador

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Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley speaks during the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort Hotel And Convention Center on March 03, 2023, in National Harbor, Maryland.

Three prominent board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition have circulated a letter urging colleagues to support Nikki Haley for president and donate to her campaign, calling the former governor of South Carolina and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations “the best candidate for Jewish Republicans, the Republican Party and America.”

“While the 2024 presidential contest has barely begun, we have decided not to wait,” the signatories write in their letter, which was obtained by Jewish Insider on Thursday. “The best candidate for Jewish Republicans, the Republican Party and America is already in the race. We are committed to backing former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley for president, and we encourage you to join us.”

The letter is signed by Phil Rosen, a leading corporate attorney and Jewish leader in New York City; Cheryl Halpern, a partner at the production company HQ Creative LLC and a former national chairwoman of the RJC who lives in New Jersey; and Fred Zeidman, a Houston-based GOP donor and businessman.

“We have all contributed the maximum to her campaign and are asking for you to join us today by doing the same,” they say in the letter, which was first distributed on March 15, according to a source familiar with the effort.

The exhortation comes as Haley’s campaign prepares to release its first-quarter fundraising numbers in the coming weeks, indicating whether she is gaining traction as the first major Republican challenger to run against former President Donald Trump in 2024.

In recent weeks, Haley has courted support from the Jewish community at several events, including a widely attended campaign stop at a synagogue in Palm Beach, Fla., as well as a fundraiser in New York City, where she met with Orthodox Jewish leaders.

While Haley launched her campaign last month with longstanding connections to a range of Jewish and pro-Israel leaders, some of her past supporters seemed relatively cautious about publicly committing to one candidate before the race had evolved. Even Zeidman, who had previously contributed $10,000 to Haley’s nonprofit, Stand for America, Inc., had declined to say for the record if he would back her campaign.

“Now we’re going to find out what it’s like to stand up and run against Donald Trump,” he told JI a day before Haley formally announced her candidacy in mid-February. “Who’s going to come behind her, I don’t know.”

The signatories touched on that dynamic in their letter to RJC members, who are not uniformly aligned on one candidate as other GOP heavyweights stand poised to enter the race, including Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Vice President Mike Pence.

“It can be tempting to sit on the sidelines and wait for the field to develop,” they write. “We refuse to do that because we believe the stakes are too great. It is not enough to nominate any Republican. We need a leader who can unite the party, win back suburban and independent voters and restore American strength and pride. We urge you to take a chance now because we have a chance to do something great. Not only will Nikki change our party; she will change America and the world for the better.”

In an interview with JI on Thursday, Zeidman said he was “all in” for Haley’s campaign, adding, “I far and away think she has the best chance of defeating any Democratic candidate.”

Zeidman said he had “gotten feedback” from RJC members since distributing the letter but explained that “most people” are “holding their powder,” for now, “because nobody knows who’s going to be in this race.” The GOP, he acknowledged, “has a very deep bench,” with “several excellent” potential candidates. “However, it is my belief that Nikki has been so incredibly supportive of all the issues that are important to us as Jews and should be important to us as Jews.”

In her tenure as Trump’s ambassador to the U.N., Haley rose to prominence as a darling of the pro-Israel establishment. Proclaiming “a new day for Israel at the U.N.” as she took the helm in 2017, Haley’s subsequent efforts included pushing the U.S. to withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council, which she denounced for “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel,” and blocking the appointment of a former Palestinian prime minister as a special representative to Libya. 

“No presidential candidate has been more committed to Israel’s continued security and prosperity than Nikki,” the signatories enthuse.

In a bulleted list of accomplishments, they note that Haley had also urged Trump to relocate the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and helped persuade the former president to decertify the Iran nuclear deal, among other things. “She has been a voice of moral clarity in standing up to Russia, China, and North Korea,” they write.

Rosen and Halpern could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Since her campaign launch, Haley has shied away from targeting Trump, whose reputation among Jewish Republicans has suffered amid fallout from his dinner with two outspoken antisemites last November — and whose political future was otherwise complicated on Thursday when he was indicted by a Manhattan grand jury.

The former ambassador has expressed criticism of a potential opponent, DeSantis, particularly over recent comments in which he declared that protecting Ukraine from Russian aggression is a “territorial dispute” and not a vital American interest.

“America should always have the backs of our allies and friends, like Israel and Ukraine, and we should expect them to have our back,” Haley said in a statement shared with JI earlier this month. “Russia is a strongly anti-American country, trying to expand by force into a neighboring pro-American country, and threatening other American allies. We are far better off with a Ukrainian victory than a Russian victory. Sitting on the sidelines will only embolden Russia and its Chinese and Iranian allies.”

The comments from DeSantis, who has since backtracked on his initial claims, raised alarms among pro-Israel Republicans, even as the Florida governor seeks to play up his record on Israel ahead of a widely expected campaign launch.

On Tuesday, it was announced that DeSantis will be in Israel on April 27 to deliver the keynote address at an event hosted by The Jerusalem Post and Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. The museum’s chairman, Larry Mizel, is a pro-Israel donor and RJC board member based in Denver who has previously contributed to DeSantis. (A spokesperson for Mizel declined to comment on the event when reached by JI on Wednesday.)

A day later, Haley was the first 2024 contender to give her assessment of the crisis unfolding in Israel over its contentious judicial overhaul — in what doubled as a barbed condemnation of President Joe Biden’s recent comments warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he “cannot continue down this road.”

“It’s outrageous for Joe Biden to lecture Israel on a matter that is entirely their domestic concern,” Haley said in a statement posted to Twitter on Wednesday. “We would never want the Israeli government to push America on issues surrounding our Supreme Court, and they wouldn’t do it. We should let Israelis decide this themselves.”

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