Republican senator puts breaks on Iron Dome funding

The Senator proposed an amendment that would see the funding being taken from a $6 billion package destined for the Taliban. 

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

Republican Senator Rand Paul put the brakes on a bill to hand Israel $1 billion to replenish its Iron Dome missile defense system Monday, arguing that the bill must be properly financed. His objection comes amid criticism for a $3 trillion spending package, adding another ten percent to America’s national debt.

The senator has been sharply criticized for the move, accused of playing politics with the safety of Israeli citizens, and forging joint cause with members of The Squad – an anti-Israel democratic faction within Washington. But the Senator insisted that he is a strong friend of Israel’s, arguing that America can only be a strong ally if it is fiscally stable.

The senator laid out his case during a debate on a vote to fast-track the bill on Monday, which requires unanimous consent.

“I think the American taxpayer dollars that pay for it should come from money that could go to the Taliban,” said Paul.

Proposing an amendment to the bill, Paul suggested that the money for the Iron Dome system come from $6 billion that has been earmarked for the Afghan government. “That money, I think, could be spent on the Taliban, if we do not rescind that money,” he said, adding:

“The justification for my proposal for paying this is simple. Only an economically strong United States can be a militarily strong ally of Israel.”

Countering allegations that his proposal was anti-Israel, Paul continued: “I support Israel; I’ve voted for hundreds of millions of dollars to support Iron Dome. I’m glad the United States has a strong bond with Israel, but the United States cannot give money it does not have no matter how strong our relationship is. The United States is approaching $30 trillion in debt. Our out-of-control spending added 3 trillion [dollars] to the debt just in this fiscal year.”

Senator Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who proposed the motion to fast track the Iron Dome funding, rejected Paul’s amendment, insisting that the people of Afghanistan needed the $6 billion.

“This amendment would slash refugee assistance being used at this very moment to evacuate and resettle US allies and partners who served alongside Americans in the war on terror,” he said, adding: “The reality is that US dollars are not going to the Taliban, nor will they. Let me be clear, no US foreign aid will go to a Taliban-controlled Afghan government.”

Paul countered: “It is very clear and very important that it be very clear that I’ve offered to fully pay for the Iron Dome system with an extra billion dollars. The objection is coming from the Democrat side. They’re objecting to it being paid for. We’ve offered this fund of $6 billion.”

Following the vote, which Paul dissented on, both Christian Friends of Israel (CUFI) and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) criticized the senator.

CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee accused Paul of playing politics with the Iron Dome funding, saying: “Iron Dome is a matter of life and death for Israelis and Palestinians, and Senator Paul, true to form, is treating the replenishment of this vital system as a political game.

“Whatever concerns he has on other issues should be addressed in a manner that does not put innocent lives at risk,” Hagee said. “The legislation he is blocking advanced through the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Paul needs to stop playing games with the safety of the Israeli people.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for AIPAC said the Republican senator had made common cause with prominent Democrats, tweeting from their official account: “Today, Rand Paul joined Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Thomas Massie in not supporting emergency funding for Iron Dome. Their objections to funding Iron Dome undermine Israel’s security, cost innocent lives, make war more likely, and embolden Iran-backed terrorists.”

However, the Republican Jewish Coalition stood by Paul, insisting that he is a friend of Israel, although they have also asked Paul to reconsider his objections on this matter.

“This is a very different scenario from when radical Democrats in the House opposed funding for the Iron Dome self-defense system because of their hostility to Israel.” RJC Executive Director, Matt Brooks, said.

“Senator Paul, who is a friend of Israel, is objecting not because he doesn’t support the critical work of Iron Dome, but because he wants to see additional budget cuts to offset the cost,” said Brooks. “We have communicated to Senator Paul that we recognize his concerns, but there should be no roadblocks put up to slow this critical funding for the life-saving Iron Dome system.”

A spokesman for Paul confirmed to Politico that Paul wanted to see Iron Dome financed from money earmarked for the Taliban.

The senator’s communication’s director Kelsey Cooper added: “I don’t see what’s so controversial to Democrats about taking money from the Taliban to pay for this request.