So Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky), a leading light of the Tea Party movement, wants to end all foreign aid – including Israel’s. Does that mean a crisis for Israel aid looms?
Probably not, although I'm sure the folks at AIPAC aren't taking that for granted.
What we do know: support for Israel aid remains strong in both parties because some members genuinely thing it serves U.S. interests and because others fear the wrath of the pro-Israel lobby if they even think of voting to cut it.
We know the Obama administration supports it, and probably doesn't want to get into a big tussle by suggesting it should be included in its budget cutting efforts.
What we don't know: how much of a role will the handful of new, Tea Party-endorsed lawmakers play in the new Congress, especially on budget issues? How will the GOP leadership react to the anti-government, anti-spending surge that played such a role in last November's elections?
And will the anti-foreign aid mantra become a major Tea Party theme? Right now it isn't, and Paul's views do not necessarily represent the sprawling, disorganized movement, but eventually that could change.
I see no likelihood Israel's aid will be eliminated anytime in the foreseeable future; the political stars are too firmly aligned against that.
I do see the possibility of across-the-board aid reductions that would include Israel as lawmakers confront a $1.5 trillion budget deficit this year – although with both parties courting pro-Israel campaign givers in advance of the 2012 elections, I'm guessing the likelihood of any big reduction this year or next isn't high.
As for Rand Paul, there are a lot of question marks.
Will he become a major player in GOP politics, or just a gadfly, firing potshots from outside the mainstream? We just don't know. His father – Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), described in today's JTA story as “among the least Israel-friendly members of Congress,” is well outside the GOP mainstream despite a fervent national following. Will he emerge as primary Tea Party leader on Capitol Hill? We don't know that, either.
The younger Paul is someone to watch – and I'm sure Israel's friends on Capitol are watching very, very closely.
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