US Senator Rand Paul announced his intention to run for the Republican presidential nomination, but his isolationist past on Israel and Iran may complicate his campaign.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky has joined the race for the Republican nomination for US President. The senator has a mixed past regarding support for Israel, having attempted to end US aid to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Paul has run afoul of the traditional Republican line due to his isolationist policies. The Tea Party favorite, he is in favor of ending US foreign aid, including the $3 billion a year that Israel receives in military aid. In 2011, when introducing a federal budget that would have slashed foreign aid, he insisted that it would actually be good for Israel because the current aid comes with strings attached, which prevent Jerusalem from being more efficient in its military spending.
Many observers were skeptical of Paul’s reasoning, noting that his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, had repeatedly attempted to end aid for Israel. Ron Paul also generated controversy by speaking at a conference for the Fatima Center, a Catholic group that the Vatican, among others, had recognized as deeply anti-Semitic.
Paul repeated his call to end US aid to Israel during a visit to the Jewish State in 2013. His explanation was that the US was too deep in debt to offer aid to other countries and that Israel’s defense would be better served by a financially fit United States.
At the same time, he has supported contributions to Israel’s defense, including funding for the Iron Dome and calling for an end to aid for the Palestinian Authority. In January, Paul introduced the Stand with Israel Act, which would cut off aid for the PA as long as it continues to pursue unity with the Hamas terror organization and the incitement of violence against Israelis.
Paul’s views on Iran have become more traditionally Republican during his time in Congress. In 2007, when his father ran for the Republican candidacy, Paul indicated that he believed Iran posed no military threat to the UN. In a 2013 interview on Fox News, however, he said that all options, including the military option, were on the table if the nuclear negotiations collapse. He was also a signatory to the bipartisan congressional letter to Iran stating that the nuclear agreement was in force only so long as Obama was in office.
Paul’s success in winning his party’s nomination will depend in part on his ability to convince Republicans that it is possible both to support Israel and to pursue a minimalist foreign policy.