Israel was the first stop on what appears to be a resumé-building trek for Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., perhaps on his way to a 2016 presidential bid.
More than 50 Christian and Jewish leaders accompanied the senator, including GOP chairs of Iowa and South Carolina—two key early primary states. The privately funded trip was portrayed as a “fact-finding” mission, but Paul made two public appearances during his first trip to the Holy Land.
Paul is generally aligned with the libertarian views of father Ron Paul, a former congressman from Texas and three-time presidential candidate, but the younger Paul has rewritten parts of his father’s political legacy to conform to a more mainstream GOP platform. Yet during a speech at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, he touted his father’s foreign policy of slashing all foreign aid—including a gradual reduction of the $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel. “It will be harder and harder to be a friend if we are out of money,” the 50-year-old senator said.
Reducing aid to Israel, Paul argued, would boost Israel’s defense industry and cut the strings of policy dictated by the United States. He also said settlement building in Israel is “none of our business” and criticized the United States for supplying arms to Egypt.
The January trip was unusual for a lawmaker: It was funded by the American Family Association and organized by evangelical Christian leader David Lane and Orthodox Jewish leader Richard Roberts. Paul, elected this year to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the eight-day tour. He also further clarified his policy stance on the Middle East during a speech to the Heritage Foundation in February:
“Some libertarians argue that Western occupation fans the flames of radical Islam—I agree. But I don’t agree that absent Western occupation that radical Islam ‘goes quietly into that good night.’”