Sen. Rand Paul unrepentant on Israel aid
02/04/2011 - 08:46
James Besser

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) has elaborated on his recent call to end all foreign aid – including Israel's $3 billion allotment, and the Tea Party Republican isn't backing down in the face of strong criticism within his own party.

Speaking to ABC News, he said the Tea Party movement is serious about wanting big cuts in federal spending and that “[t]here’s a disconnect between Republicans who want a balanced budget but aren’t maybe yet brave enough to talk about the cuts to come.”

Tacking the big federal deficit, he said, is “more important than party affiliation,” he said.

What about Israel?

“I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel,” he said. “I want to be known as a friend of Israel, 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.”

Then he offered an argument that pro-Israel forces don't like to hear: “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.”

It's an article of faith in pro-Israel circles that aid to the Jewish state is a critical indicator of friendship between Israel and the United States, even given Israel's strong economic growth; Paul's assertion that cutting the debt is more important than that symbolism opens up a new dimension to what has mostly been a non-debate over Israel's aid allotment, the biggest in the foreign aid program.

I'm not suggesting his GOP colleagues are going to hop on this particular bus. I am suggesting that Paul is staking out a claim on congressional Tea Party leadership, and using Israel's aid as a marker. And if he emerges as a significant player in GOP congressional politics, AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups are going to have their hands full.
 

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