The freshman Republican senator from Kentucky, who is already being touted as a 2016 presidential candidate, was recently appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is showing some strong isolationist tendencies.
The membership of a senator like Rand Paul, whose primary policy goal seems to be deficit reduction and budget balancing to the exclusion and possible detriment of all other interests, is a worrying prospect to many, particularly supporters of Israel.
Upon his appointment to the committee, the National Jewish Democratic Committee released a statement condemning Paul’s membership, particularly as it pertains to U.S.-Israel relations. NJDC President David Harris said Paul's presence on Foreign Relations “should be raising red flags and provoking severe concern across the pro-Israel community.”
During the 2012 presidential campaign, Paul eventually endorsed Mitt Romney after the campaign of his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, ended, but criticized Romney’s foreign policy as being too costly, and called for a “less aggressive foreign policy” in a CNN column.
“A less aggressive foreign policy along with an audit of the Pentagon could save tens of billions of dollars each year without sacrificing our defense,” Paul wrote.
“To dismiss either idea is to miss the very compromise that will enable us to balance our budget. That compromise would be for conservatives to admit that not every dollar spent on the military is sacred or well spent, and for liberals to admit that not every dollar spent on domestic entitlements and welfare is necessary.”
On his first-ever visit to Israel this week, Paul made comments to a Jerusalem think tank that have ruffled the feathers of some pro-Israel activists back home.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Paul as saying, “It will be harder to defend Israel if we destroy our country [the U.S.] in the process. I think there will be significant repercussions to running massive deficits.
“I’m all for gradualism. I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel, and enemies of the U.S. I would like to see their aid end more quickly. With regards to Israel, it could be a gradual phenomenon.”
Paul went on to assert that the presence of U.S. dollars in Israel’s defense budget precludes Israel from making its own decisions, and questioned whether “our money sometimes clouds the sovereignty of Israel.”
His remarks have raised eyebrows and ire back home.
The NJDC released a statement on Tuesday condemning Paul’s proposed cuts to U.S. aid to Israel.
“Senator Paul’s misguided views on aid to Israel are plain wrong and do not reflect the myriad benefits that come from American assistance to Israel,” Harris said. “… Paul’s appointment to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would give him a bigger platform from which to spout his radical views.”
Paul’s father has also been accused of holding anti-Israel views. In a speech last month in Texas, Ron Paul proposed that America’s “blind support” of Israel was hurting the U.S., and indeed, the very idea of democracy in general. During the Republican debates before Romney won the nomination, Paul asserted that America was too much “Israel’s master,” that was dictating Israel’s borders and vetoing foreign policy decisions.
Rand Paul is scheduled to meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during his visit.