by Javier ManjarresSenator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, is calling for a halt of all foreign aid, including vital military aid to Israel (skip to 4:15), our closest ally in the Middle East– even as the future of neighboring Egypt hangs in the balance. While Senator Paul does not have the same isolationist (also referred to as “non-interventionist”) leanings that his father Congressman Ron Paul has, one has to wonder about the timing of his request. While there is substantial merit for Paul’s call to revisit our foreign aid and tackle our debt, foreign aid to Israel is a matter that needs to be very seriously deliberated and considered, because not only is Israel our closest democratic ally in the region, it is also the first line of defense against Islamic extremism.
Just this past week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), as well as Senators Toomey(R-PA) and Johnson (R-WI) decided not to join Rand Paul in the Senate Tea Party Caucus. One of the probable reasons that Rubio and others decided not to join were these types of controversial statements and/or demands that Paul could make which would make the entire caucus look either ignorant or misguided. Even though the call to stop all foreign aid could sound a bit ‘over the top’, by Paul also throwing Israel into the mix, it could be perceived as highly reckless and irresponsible, considering what is at stake in the Middle East and that Israel is a key to the United States’ national security interests.
Senator Rubio reiterated his support of Israel to the Shark Tank-
“Our military aid to Israel is vital to its security and to our own interests. I fully support what has been long-standing American policy to support Israel’s efforts to maintain a competitive military edge over its adversaries.“As Prime Minister Netanyahu has noted, ‘If the Arabs lay down their arms, there will be no more war; but if Israel lays down its weapons, there would be no more Israel.'” – Senator Marco Rubio
The other reason this is a bad foot to start off on is, of course, that it’ll never pass. Financial support for Israel is deeply bipartisan in Congress. Even some pro-Israel tea partiers, like Allen West, would be loath to cancel their aid, I suspect, especially with Hezbollah now in control in Lebanon and the Muslim Brotherhood poised to ascend in Egypt. Until Iran’s regime, at least, is replaced with something less feral, there’s simply no way Congress will leave Israel to fend for itself. But I get that he’s making a principled point here about every last expense having to be on the table, so fair enough.
Perhaps a sensible middle ground between Paul’s position and unquestioned foreign aid for Israel would be to make a distinction between the military aid to Israel that is purely “grant aid” from the “aid” which are actually straight military sales. We should no doubt continue with military sales and technology transfers to Israel, but we also need to seriously consider curtailing other grant aid that can be spent for non-essential military or non-military domestic purposes.