Sen. Rand Paul chose an unlikely location to deliver a foreign policy proposal.
While visiting Israel on Monday, the Kentucky Republican said the U.S. should gradually reduce the amount of foreign aid it distributes, including to Israel, one of its largest recipients. He said that for starters, the U.S. should reduce the monies given to countries out of sync with American values, and only later reduce the aid to ideologically-aligned allies.
Speaking to the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, an Israeli think tank, Paul indicated his idea should not be viewed as a punishment to Israel, but rather as a fiscal issue.
The U.S. is and always will be a friend of Israel, he said according to the Jerusalem Post, but added “It will be harder and harder to be a friend if we are out of money. It will be harder to defend Israel if we destroy our country in the process."
An AP reporter quoted him as saying, "I think there will be significant repercussions to running massive deficits...you destroy your currency by spending money you don't have."
On this first trip of his to Israel, Paul suggested that if the U.S. weren’t under debt pressure, aid could be considered. “To me it has always been about whether it makes sense for me to borrow money from China to give to Pakistan,” he said.
The senator who last week won a seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee emphasized he sees a difference between committed American allies like Israel and other recipients of U.S. aid, such as Egypt, Libya and Pakistan.
“I’m all for gradualism,” he said. “I would start a little more quickly with those who are enemies of Israel, and enemies of the US. I would like to see their aid end more quickly. With regards to Israel, it could be a gradual phenomenon.”
Of the $3 billion in annual military aid given to Israel, most of it must be spent in the U.S. on American equipment and services.
Paul pointed out that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past also supported the idea of gradually weaning Israel off the aid. AP reports:
Paul said the aid, used in large part by Israel and Egypt to buy U.S. weapons, was creating an arms race in the Middle East that could ultimately harm Israel, not help it.
"I'm concerned that some of the weaponry that we are currently giving to Egypt may one day be used against Israel," he said.[…]
Paul suggested Israel would actually benefit from less aid, saying it would enhance its sovereignty by not having to approach the U.S. "on bended knee" when making its own decisions.
Paul outlined other ways in which he believes less aid would help Israel, including boosting the local defense industry and allowing Israel to feel it can act more independently.
He wondered whether “our aid hampers Israel’s ability to make its own decisions as it sees fit” and whether “our money sometimes clouds the sovereignty of Israel.” He is also concerned Israelis think “they have to call people in America for permission to defend itself.”
Paul was not optimistic his idea would be adopted during his lifetime. "It's unlikely anything changes, but I think it is worth discussing," he said.
The senator is traveling in the region with an evangelical Christian group. After meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli politicians and a tour of the Galilee, he is scheduled to travel to Jordan on Tuesday to meet with King Abdullah and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
As TheBlaze reported on Sunday, Paul - heir apparent to his father Ron Paul’s political movement - said he’s considering a presidential bid.
This week's visit to the Middle East, a foreign policy hotspot, can only enhance his diplomatic credentials.