Rand Paul’s rationale for holding back aid to Israel
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia)
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is expected to introduce an amendment in the coming days that would limit the amount of U.S. security assistance to Israel, Jewish Insider has learned.
Paul recently came under fire from AIPAC and other pro-Israel groups for placing a hold on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which would formalize the 10-year Memorandum of Understanding reached between the U.S. and Israel in 2016. Paul opposed Senate leadership attempts to reach unanimous consent on the bipartisan measure.
AIPAC and Christians United for Israel purchased online ads this week exposing Paul as the primary force holding up the legislation. CUFI also sent an “action alert” email on Monday urging its 4.5 million members to contact Paul’s office in support of the Act.
Paul responded to his critics in an exclusive statement to Jewish Insider issued in advance of his proposed amendment. “I’m not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren’t doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America,” he wrote. “This is a stance I’ve taken for many years.”
In a lengthy statement (included below in full), Paul cited comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress in 1996 expressing his desire to see Israel achieve economic independence, presumably allowing for the gradual reduction of U.S. aid to the Jewish state. “In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel,” Netanyahu said at the time. “I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”
However, in a statement on September 14, 2016, Netanyahu — lauding the newly-signed MOU as “the largest military assistance package that the United States has ever given to any country” — noted that “many in the United States understand that investment in the security of Israel strengthens the stability of the unstable Middle East and serves not only our security interests but those of the United States as well.”
The Republican Senator from Kentucky also criticized AIPAC for opposing his efforts to slash U.S. funds to Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority, a move which he said would free up aid money for Israel. “Each time I’ve tried to stop giving aid to enemies of the US and Israel, I have been thwarted, often by groups that claim they are pro-Israel,” Paul complained.
In the statement, Paul speculates that the “supposedly” pro-Israel groups “fear a broader debate on whether we should be borrowing from foreign countries simply to send the money to other foreign countries.”
CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker responds: “The amendment Sen. Paul is reportedly expected to introduce sounds a great deal like the one he introduced in committee months ago; save Sen. Paul himself, that amendment received no support from any senator in either party. Like most Americans, we place a premium on ensuring our taxpayer dollars are used wisely. That is why CUFI led the efforts to advance the Taylor Force Act and oppose continued aid to UNRWA. Sen. Paul’s decision to hold this bill does not make America safer and does not ensure taxpayer dollars are used most efficiently – quite the opposite. Whether one is guided by liberal, conservative or libertarian values, aid to Israel is fiscally sound, in the national security interests of the United States and keeps with our country’s finest moral traditions.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a statement to Jewish Insider: “At a time when Israel faces unprecedented threats from the Iranian regime as well as from Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists, the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018 demonstrates America’s ironclad commitment to the Jewish state’s security and survival. This legislation, which enjoys nearly unanimous bipartisan support, overwhelmingly passed the Senate on August 1, 2018, and then passed the House with amendment on September 12, 2018. While it’s regrettable that anyone would hold hostage legislation to empower the United States to stand with Israel, I am hopeful the Senate will quickly find a way to send this important bill to President Trump to become law.”
Sander Gerber, architect of the Taylor Force Act legislation, emails: “Paul’s foreign aid legislation pretends to attack the moral equivalency argument between Arab terrorism and Israel, but in fact maintains the false ‘linkeage’ argument. The extremes of both parties need to understand that supporting Israel not only promotes American values but sends a message to the world that free societies have each other’s backs.”
RJC’s Matt Brooks: “We have been working very closely over the past several weeks with Sen. Paul to try to resolve this matter. In our conversations, we have made clear that we would like to see a speedy resolution to this and move the MOU funding forward. While Sen. Paul has made clear to us that this isn’t punitive to Israel (Sen. Paul has been a long time critic of foreign aid in general and specifically aid to those hostile to America), we are concerned that this funding is being used as a pawn in this legislative skirmish.”
“Sen. Paul’s hold is to block a unanimous consent motion to pass this bill. He’s working with Leader McConnell to get a floor vote on this – where this will pass overwhelmingly. We are working hard to get this resolved either with the opposition to unanimous consent removed or a floor vote soon.”
Senator Paul Rand’s full statement on withholding Israel aid:
I’m not for foreign aid in general, if we are going to send aid to Israel it should be limited in time and scope so we aren’t doing it forever, and it should be paid for by cutting the aid to people who hate Israel and America. This is a stance I’ve taken for many years.
Why are we giving twice as much money to nations that surround Israel, which forces Israel to spend more on defense? We have given billions to Pakistan and the the Palestinian Authority. I’ve repeatedly introduced legislation to stop this, only to be opposed by AIPAC and others.
Why are we giving one penny to people who hate America?
This is Washington’s dirty little secret: The US gives Foreign Aid to enemies of Israel. Each time I’ve tried to stop giving aid to enemies of the US and Israel, I have been thwarted. Often by groups that claim they are pro-Israel.
Why would supposedly pro-Israel groups oppose my legislation to end aid to the Palestinian Liberation Organization? Maybe it’s because they fear any debate on anyone’s foreign aid threatens a broader debate on whether we should be borrowing from foreign countries simply to send the money to other foreign countries.
I still agree with Israel’s leader [Benjamin] Netanyahu, who said, “But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence. We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel. I am convinced that our economic policies will lay the foundation for total self-reliance and great economic strength.”
I also agree with Conservative leader Naftali Bennett, who has said, “Today, U.S. military aid is roughly one percent of Israel’s economy… our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago. Israel is much stronger, much wealthier, and we need to be independent.”