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Big Republican Jewish donors give to Haley

WASHINGTON — Days before Republican voters began casting their presidential primary ballots this week, Nikki Haley was hoping that she could pull off an unlikely win over Donald Trump.

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during a campaign event at Mickey’s Irish Pub, in Waukee, Iowa, Jan. 9, 2024. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

One thing the former South Carolina governor has in her corner: a growing array of major Jewish donors.

Haley, who also served as Trump’s ambassador to the UN, is not yet leading in any poll and finished third in this week’s Iowa primary.

But she is creeping up steadily in national surveys, has reached a virtual tie for a distant second place and is hoping for an upset win in New Hampshire later this month, bolstered last week when former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who had been focusing on the state, dropped out.

Eventually, she hopes to unite the entire anti-Trump vote behind her.

That anti-Trump constituency includes many of the party’s prominent Jewish names.

According to Fred Zeidman, a Houston businessmen who is a leading fundraiser for Haley, Republican Jewish backers have gravitated to Haley because of her relatively moderate stance on abortion and her pro-Israel credentials.

Haley raised $24 million in the most recent quarter, more than double her haul in the previous round.

According to a recent Forbes article, the coalition of billionaires backing her is a who’s who of Jewish pro-Israel money.

Organizers of an upcoming Jan. 30 New York fundraiser for Haley, the magazine reported, include:

Cliff Asness, the hedge fund manager who took the lead in pulling a donation from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, for its administration’s equivocation in condemning Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel;

Stanley Druckenmiller, a former hedge funder-turned-full-time philanthropist;

Henry Kravis, an investor who has donated extensively to Israeli cultural endeavors; and

Leonard Stern, the real estate magnate who has given heavily to Yeshiva University.

The day after Jan. 30, Haley will fly to Miami for another fundraiser. This is organized by:

Barry Sternlicht, a real estate billionaire who launched a $50 million pro-Israel initiative after Oct. 7; and

Dan Och, a major giver to Birthright and the UJA-Federation of New York.
Halley also has the support of Jewish donors:

Jan Koum, the WhatsApp founder who has given $5 million to a super PAC affiliated with the candidate.

Ronald Simon, a California home builder whose family foundation runs a scholarship program for children from low-income families, who gave at least $1 million;

Terry Kassel, a Palm Beach philanthropist who promotes Israel’s high-tech sector, who gave at least $250,000; and

Elliott Badzin, a Minnesota car supply magnate, who gave at least $100,000.

Pro-Israel donor and GOP kingmaker Dr. Miriam Adelson has pledged to remain neutral during this year’s primary.

Asness has given $1 million to the same super PAC, the SFA Fund, and Stern has given $175,000.

Said to be closing in on a decision to back Haley is Paul Singer, Jewish hedge fund manager.

Haley gained legions of Republican Jewish fans when she made defending Israel the centerpiece of her 18-month stint at the UN.

She persuaded Trump to cut US funds for UNRWA, the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees and their five generations of descendants; she vetoed the appointment of Palestinians to high-ranking jobs; and she snubbed diplomats from nations who voted against Israel.

She debuted one of her trademark phrases, about how she wears heels as weapons, at an AIPAC conference in 2017.

“I wear high heels,” she said. “It’s not for a fashion statement, it’s because if I see something wrong I will kick it every single time.”

Israel has featured prominently in her campaign, especially since Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel and the ensuing war.

Before the war, she went after Ramaswamy’s proposal to cut defense assistance to Israel, saying at an August debate, “He wants to stop funding Israel. You don’t do that to your friends.”

She’s been hammering home the message on X. “Israel is a bright spot in a tough neighborhood,” she posted earlier this month.

“It has never [been] that Israel needs America. It has always been that America needs Israel.”

On abortion, she has said:

“As much as I’m pro-life, I don’t judge anyone for being pro-choice, and I don’t want them to judge me for being pro-life,” Haley said at the November debate.

“So when we’re looking at this, there are some states that are going more on the pro-life side. I welcome that. There are some states that are going more on the pro-choice side. I wish that wasn’t the case, but the people decided.”

Haley could still stumble: At a town hall in New Hampshire, she recently declined to mention slavery as a cause of the Civil War, widely viewed as a gaffe and as a sharp contrast to her decision in 2015 to remove the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse after a white supremacist mass shooting at a black church in Charleston. (The next day she said slavery was a cause.)

While Haley stood out for defending Israel at the UN, it was Trump who made the decisions that substantially shifted US policy to be more aligned with the Israeli right — moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Trump still boasts major pro-Israel backers, including his former ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

But he also remains unpredictable, as the pro-Israel advisers who shaped his presidential policies, including his son-in-law Jared Kushner, are no longer actively advising him.

For months, Trump’s preferred target was DeSantis. But he is turning his rhetorical guns on Haley, a sign that he views her as a threat.

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