(Denver, Colorado) — With America’s ally Israel under attack from more than 3,000 rockets and missiles as well as terrorist squads from Gaza, Senator Rand Paul — increasingly considered the 2016 GOP presidential frontrunner — this week insisted that he has never called for the end of U.S. aid to Israel.
What in the world is he talking about?
Senator Paul has repeatedly called for an end to the $3 billion the U.S. invests in the Israeli military every year. He has called such an investment “welfare.” He started making this case in 2011 in his budget proposal and in interviews with CNN and ABC News. He even repeated the call for an end of military aid to Israel on a visit to Jerusalem in 2013.
Consider these stories:
- Rand Paul: End ‘welfare’ to Israel (Politico, February 4, 2011)
- Rand Paul: End foreign aid, including Israel (Jewish Telegraphic Agency, January 27, 2011)
- Rand Paul Calls for End to Aid for Israel — Tea Party Stalwart Says Move Will Strengthen Jewish State (The Jewish Daily Forward, January 7, 2013)
- Rand Paul’s call to end foreign aid concerns Israel — Suggestion deemed “harmful” to U.S. commitment (Washington Times, June 17, 2013)
The Wall Street Journal reports: “In 2011, Mr. Paul proposed a five-year balanced budget plan that said it ‘eliminates extraneous tax subsidies that exceed tax liability, and all international assistance, among other cuts.’ And in an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN early in 2011, Mr. Paul said he would end foreign aid to Israel as well as other Mideast countries. Noting that Egypt gets about the same amount of U.S. money as Israel, he said that ‘you have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East. But at the same time, I don’t think funding both sides of the arm race, particularly when we have to borrow the money from China to send it to someone else. We just can’t do it anymore. The debt is all-consuming and it threatens our well being as a country.’ When Mr. Blitzer asked if he would ‘end all foreign aid including the foreign aid to Israel as well,’ Mr. Paul replied, ‘Yes.’ In a February 2011 interview with ABC News, Mr. Paul defended his call to cut the $3 billion in annual aid to Israel and assistance to other countries. ‘I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel,’ Mr. Paul said at the time, ‘but not with money you don’t have. We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries even if they are our friends….I think they’re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world. Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.'”
So why is Paul denying it? One possibility: he knows the nation — and especially the GOP — is strongly pro-Israel and he worries that he cannot advance politically if voters conclude that he is not.
On the merits of the issue of investing in Israel’s military as a key and important American ally, the Senator is dead wrong.
Widely regarded as an isolationist (see here, here, here, here and here), Paul wants America to retreat from the world, not be the world’s leading superpower. He has demonstrated that he does not understand the gravity of the threats we face from Iran, North Korea, Russia, China or Radical Islam more broadly. Nor does he truly understand the enormous threats the U.S., Israel and our Arab allies face in the Middle East, in particular, or how valuable it is to invest in the Israeli military.
Israel is America’s most faithful ally in a dangerous part of the world. Americans in both parties overwhelming support Israel and want to continue doing so. Israel is on the frontlines of the war against Radical Islam. The Israelis provide us highly-valuable intelligence, basing rights for our forces, and joint development of high-tech weapons systems that keep our people and forces safe, as well as theirs. The joint development of missile and rocket defenses such as the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome systems have been lifesavers. With the proliferation of ballistic missiles throughout the Middle East, and Iran racing for nuclear weapons, now is not the time to end our investment in the most successful military in the world in shooting down rockets and missiles.
Now is the time to stand together with our trustworthy ally, not cut her loose.
There is a second issue at play here that is also troubling. Senator Paul is entitled to hold any opinion on any public policy issue he wants. He can even change his views if he would like to. But for any leader — especially a presidential frontrunner — to deny that he has a position that he has stated publicly and repeatedly is ludicrous. Indeed, it raises questions about his character and veracity.
One last thought: Senator Paul’s position to end military aid to Israel puts him far to the left of President Obama.
Is this the future of the GOP?
Rand Paul says he never proposed ending aid to Israel — even though he did
Paul proposed a budget in 2011 to cut off aid to all foreign nations.
By Chris Moody, Yahoo News, August 4, 2014
“Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Monday denied that he once supported ending federal aid to Israel — an idea he proposed as recently as 2011,” reports Yahoo News.
“I haven’t really proposed that in the past,” Paul told Yahoo News when asked if he still thought the U.S. should phase out aid to Israel, which has been battling Hamas in Gaza for weeks. “We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position — a legislative position — we have introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid. That’s the answer to that question. Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that. I voted just this week to give money — more money — to the Iron Dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel.”
Paul, who was in Omaha campaigning for Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse before a three-day tour of neighboring Iowa, may not like it when reporters bring up his proposal from three years ago to end all U.S. foreign aid — including to Israel. But that was in fact his position.
In 2011, the newly elected Paul proposed a budget that would have cut $500 billion from the federal budget in part by cutting off foreign aid to all countries, including financial grants to Israel. The United States provides about $3 billion to Israel annually, and last week the Senate approved $225 million to help support Israel’s Iron Dome technology, which blocks rocket fire from Gaza. (Paul supported the measure.)
Paul, in his first months in office, however, defended phasing out aid by saying that the U.S. could no longer afford to give cash to other countries.
“I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you don’t have,” Paul said in 2011 during an interview with ABC News. “We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.”
He even pointed to Israel as an example of a nation that doesn’t need foreign aid because of its own wealth.
“I think they’re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world,” Paul said, also in 2011. “Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”….
It’s one thing for a politician to admit that his views have changed on an issue and an entirely other thing to say that he never held the position at all.