Conference conversations

Sen. Rick Scott: Oct. 7 ‘created clarity’ on Israel for Republicans

The Heritage think tank hosted an event alongside an organization that opposes Palestinian statehood

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) speaks on government funding during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 06, 2024 in Washington, DC.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) said on Monday that Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attacks “probably created clarity” for the Republican Party on Israel, whereas the GOP legislators are split on whether to provide aid to Ukraine at all.

Speaking to Jewish Insider on the sidelines of a Heritage Foundation event in Washington, D.C., Scott, who is up for re-election this fall, explained that he is not against the idea of helping the Ukrainians with lethal weaponry, though not without oversight measures. He also noted that Ukraine and Israel have different relationships with the United States and are asking for different types of support. 

“For Israel, we’re not paying for their politicians, we’re not [being asked for] humanitarian aid. We’re giving them military aid. Let’s do that for Ukraine,” Scott said. “I supported the first bills on Ukraine, but think what they want for Ukraine: They want me to pay for politicians; they want me to pay for teachers; they want to pay for all these people. We’re not paying that for Israel. Also, Israel’s not asking me to give $10 billion to Biden to waste money on humanitarian support.”

The event was hosted in partnership with Keep God’s Land, an organization that opposes Palestinian statehood. Other speakers included former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Israeli MK Ohad Tal, a member of Israel’s far-right Religious Zionist party who sits in the Israeli governing coalition.

Heritage has undergone an ideological shift in the last few years, transitioning from a coalition of national security hawks to a group of critics of U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts. The think tank has lobbied conservatives in the House and Senate to oppose combining the aid bills into a single package, and has grown critical of sending Ukraine non-lethal support. Former Vice President Mike Pence, who vocally supports Ukraine, launched his Advancing American Freedom organization in early 2021 to combat the shift toward isolationism from Heritage and other leading Republicans.

“I think for the first time in a very long time, we have a very valuable asset. We have clarity,” Friedman told the crowd from Heritage HQ. “We understand that the fog has lifted over Israel. We know who our friends are, we know who our enemies are. We know what works, we know what doesn’t work.”

Tal told JI that Democratic divisions over Israel harmed the Jewish state’s standing on the global stage.

“The Biden administration, unfortunately as we’ve seen time and time again in the last couple of weeks and months, is causing severe damage to Israel. We have to admit that,” Tal said in an interview after his speech at the Heritage event. “They’re taking all the disagreements and dealing with them publicly, and that sends a message to Iran that we are not backing Israel, we’re not with them, so come and attack them. We’ve seen the consequences of that just 48 hours ago.”

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) similarly focused her attention on the Biden administration. Tenney said that Israel has “always been strongly supported by Republicans,” with the exception of some libertarians in her party who don’t believe the U.S. should provide any foreign aid. 

On the Democratic side, however, Tenney suggested that “a lot of what’s happening … comes from years of manipulation with money coming in from Hamas and other entities into the college campuses and into communities.”

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