US Senator Rand Paul 370.
(photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a fierce opponent of US foreign aid
who is being touted already as a likely 2016 presidential candidate, is
scheduled to arrive in Israel on Sunday for his first-ever visit.
scheduled to meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres
on Monday, the senator’s 50th birthday. He is an adherent to the libertarian
views of his father, Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is viewed by some as
holding anti-Israel positions and has twice launched unsuccessful presidential
An article last month in the Lousiville, Kentucky, Courier- Journal
said the senator’s trip was fueling presidential speculation, and that the visit
was another sign he may be considering a presidential bid. He will be
accompanied by his family.
Paul, one of eight senators who voted against
the so-called “fiscal cliff” agreement in Washington this week, is scheduled to
speak at a private reception on Monday on the issue of fiscal responsibility and
reducing US foreign aid during a speech at the Jerusalem Institute for Market
Studies. JIMS describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit economic policy
think tank whose mission is to promote social progress in Israel through
economic freedom and individual liberty.”
quoted Paul as saying that the depiction of him as anti-Israel because he favors
foreign aid cuts was a “misrepresentation.”
“It is not my position to be
against Israel,” the first-term senator and Tea Party darling said. “I’m
appreciative of the fact that Israel is a democracy, one of the few true
democracies in the Middle East, and I’m also appreciative that they’ve been a
close friend and ally.”
Paul said foreign aid cuts “should start with
countries who have not been good allies.... I wouldn’t start with
“Whether or not we can afford to continue aid to Israel over
time, there needs to be discussion with Israel over them being more
independent,” he added.
Israel receives some $3 billion in annual US
military assistance, some 74 percent of which is spent in the US.
to know more about the issues... [and] try to figure out why we don’t seem to be
able to achieve peace over there,” Paul said of his trip. “If you want to be
part of the national debate and hopefully part of the solution someday to what
happens in the Middle East, having been there gives you more credibility with
After meeting with Netanyahu and Peres, Paul is scheduled to
travel to Jordan on Tuesday and meet with King Abdullah and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. He plans to return to Israel on Wednesday and
tour the Galilee.
The trip is sponsored by the American Family
Association, a conservative Christian group that promotes fundamentalist
Christian values. Paul will be travel along with approximately 50-100
evangelical Christians, including politically well-connected figures in South
Carolina and Iowa, which will hold early 2016 caucuses and primaries.