US Senator Rand Paul set to visit Israel

Paul, a fierce opponent of US foreign aid who is being touted as a 2016 presidential candidate, set to make first-ever visit.

US Senator Rand Paul 370 (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
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.
Paul is 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 bids.
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.”
The Courier-Journal article 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 Israel.”
“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.
“I want 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 some folks.”
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.