Cruz courts pro-Israel dollars at NJ event

Cruz courts pro-Israel dollars at NJ event

‘Disastrous’ Iran deal is topic as candidate raises $110,000

Sen. Ted Cruz, second from left, at a NORPAC fund-raiser in Englewood with the organization’s president, Ben Chouake, far left, and the hosts of the benefit, Ben and Batya Klein.
Sen. Ted Cruz, second from left, at a NORPAC fund-raiser in Englewood with the organization’s president, Ben Chouake, far left, and the hosts of the benefit, Ben and Batya Klein.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) raised an estimated $110,000 Dec. 9 at a breakfast fund-raiser in Englewood sponsored by NORPAC, the nonpartisan pro-Israel political action committee.

His contributions exceed the $100,000 NORPAC members raised for rival presidential contender Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Nov. 3.

“Cruz spoke very well,” said NORPAC president Ben Chouake a few hours after the meeting. “It was the usual partisan stuff. His presentation and Rubio’s were similar. The two discussions were mostly related to U.S.-Israel relations. Both are very interested in strong relations with Israel and United States’ security, and both recognize the relationship is not only in the economic and security interests of America, but support of Israel is also a moral obligation of the United States.”

Chouake said much talk focused on the multinational nuclear agreement intended to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

Cruz spelled out his stand in September, writing in National Review that the lifting of $100 billion is sanctions “will give (Iran’s) Supreme Leader the tools and resources to greatly accelerate the nuclear program.”

Chouake said “most of the Republican candidates I’ve met with feel that the deal is disastrous and say they will do what they can to dismantle it.”

Another hot topic, Donald Trump, was barely touched on during NORPAC’s session with Cruz. “We didn't talk about Trump in terms of anything more than Cruz predicted people are going to lose interest in him,” said Chouake.

One day earlier, Cruz said, “I do not agree” with Trump’s proposal for banning Muslims from entering the United States, but did commend his rival for “standing up and focusing America’s attention on the need to secure our borders.”

Cruz is currently ranked second behind Trump in several polls of likely Republican voters.

“The topic of banning Muslims from the country or even immigration policy did not come up at all,” Chouake added.

Chouake, a physician and registered Republican, offered his own analysis of Trump’s popularity.

“Trump has said stuff that sometimes is offensive to certain people but the stuff he has been saying connects with other people in a big way, and whether you agree with it or not, he is polling on top of everyone else,” said Chouake.

“That is because he is saying what people are feeling, whether it is good or it is bad. He is basically saying, ‘We are at war, and we need to be more careful.’ That is why he is doing well in the polls.”

“I don't think Trump is anti-Semitic,” Chouake added. “I don't know him, but the people I know who know him are convinced that he would be a tremendous supporter of the relationship with Israel.”

Although Trump solicits donations for his campaign on his website, he has said he is not seeking funds from political action committees like NORPAC.

Although NORPAC has no current plans to host other presidential aspirants, Chouake said he believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie “is as supported as Cruz” among its members.

There is little interest, he added, in the candidacy of Dr. Ben Carson, a brain surgeon and political novice who has slipped to third place in public opinion polls.

“I don't think Carson is going to get it,” Chouake said. “I think his problem is he says, ‘I am brilliant. I am a brilliant neurosurgeon.’ But he doesn't know anything, and if you want to run for president, you’ve got to do your homework. You can’t say, ‘I’ll learn it on the job.’ You've got to be prepared, and the perception is that he is not.”

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