For months, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), the libertarian-minded son of former Representative Ron Paul, has sought to burnish his pro-Israel credentials as he paves a path towards the 2016 presidential election. His latest attempt is an over-the-top column this week in the National Review calling on the U.S. to stop calling for Israeli “restraint” and to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Paul’s plan, the centerpiece of which is a bill that would halt U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority in light of its reconciliation agreement with Hamas, won’t get very far. The American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) strongly opposes it, since the PA is Israel’s biggest ally in the West Bank, notwithstanding the political theater Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been engaging in over the past few weeks.
But Paul has to know his bill has no chance of being passed. Instead, it’s an attempt to assuage concerns over previous statements on Israel, including a budget plan that would have cut off U.S. aid to Israel and to all other countries. Paul crossed a sacred red-line in Washington with that 2011 proposal. His other non-interventionist positions on drones and U.S. war in Iran and Syria have only fueled doubts in the hawkish, neoconservative wing of the Republican Party that Paul is not a man to trust–especially in the White House.
How many times must Israel hear this call? Children are murdered — please show restraint. Cafés and buses are bombed — please show restraint…
I think it is clear by now: Israel has shown remarkable restraint. It possesses a military with clear superiority over that of its Palestinian neighbors, yet it does not respond to threat after threat, provocation after provocation, with the type of force that would decisively end their conflict.
But sometimes restraint can work against you. Sometimes you just have to say, enough is enough.
Nearly six weeks ago, I proposed a bill called the “Stand With Israel Act.” Its purpose was to cut off the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority if it allied with Hamas — the same Hamas that just murdered these three teenagers.
So let’s be clear: U.S. taxpayer money may soon be going to an entity kidnapping and murdering Israeli and U.S. children.
The article is a call for the army to go wild, and has little grounding in facts. U.S. taxpayer dollars are flowing to a West Bank government that is committed to past agreements with Israel; that has continued security coordination with Israel, including standing by while Israeli soldiers invaded the heart of Ramallah; and that is not about to integrate Hamas’ armed forces into the government. If the PA took any steps that undermined security coordination with Israel, the West would cut off aid in a heartbeat.
But the column is not about facts. It’s about ingratiating himself to a crowd that has money–the Sheldon Adelson crowd. Paul’s bill to cut off aid to the PA has the support of the far-right Zionist Organization of America, a group that Adelson funds, though it is far from clear he will be successful in raising money from right-wing, pro-Israel donors.
Whether Paul can triangulate on the issue of Israel and U.S. policy in the Middle East will be interesting to watch. He has to try to maintain grassroots support, predicated on his unorthodox views on foreign policy, with the establishment’s pro-Israel and pro-intervention consensus. But for those hoping Paul would be the vanguard of an unabashed libertarian foreign policy, the run-up to the 2016 election will be disappointing. He’s running towards the pro-Israel crowd as fast as he can.