Ron Paul, the libertarian GOP presidential candidate from Texas, ruffled some Republican feathers at last night’s debate when he suggested that the U.S. should cut foreign aid to Israel.
"That foreign aid makes Israel dependent on us," he said. "It softens them for their own economy. And they should have their sovereignty back, they should be able to deal with their neighbors at their own will."
Israel has received $3 billion annually in foreign defense assistance since 1985.
Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann shot back at Paul’s implication that the U.S. would turn its back on its “greatest ally.”
“The biggest problem with this administration and foreign policy is that President Obama is the first president since Israel declared her sovereignty who put daylight between the United States and Israel. That’s heavily contributed to the current hostilities that we see in the Middle East region," Bachmann announced, drawing cheers from the crowd.
Foreign aid, according to Paul, should be the easiest thing to cut to help reduce the deficit.
“It’s not authorized in the constitution that we can take money from you (the American people) and give it to particular countries around the world. To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries.”
Paul said he would cut foreign aid as a whole and in doing so would treat “every country fairly,” implying Israel would get no special treatment from the U.S.
Since WWII Israel has been the largest cumulative beneficiary of U.S. foreign aid. Almost all of that aid is in the form of military assistance but the small democratic country has also received significant economic aid as well. The special treatment also allows Israel to receive the money within the first 30 days of the fiscal year; all other countries must receive aid in installments.
The Obama administration has continued sending a hefty check to Israel, justifying in the State Department’s budget that “U.S. assistance will help ensure that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge over potential threats, and prevent a shift in the security balance of the region. U.S. assistance is also aimed at ensuring for Israel the security it requires to make concessions necessary for comprehensive regional peace.”
Phyllis Bennis, fellow for the Institute of Policy Studies, told The Christian Post that she largely agrees with Ron Paul’s statements.
“U.S. aid to Israel impoverishes Americans and does nothing to make Israel safer. It must be stopped.”
Foreign aid in general, Bennis notes, is problematic. Often times the money winds up in corrupt hands. Aid to Israel, however, is different in that most of the aid goes to the military. The Israeli military has been known to have committed human rights violations, which according to Bennis, herself an American Jew, makes the U.S. directly complicit to those actions.
“Why is Israel exempt? It should be treated like any other country.”
However, many conservative pundits argue that Israel is a vulnerable nation surrounded by hostile states. If Israel were to fall, many argue, U.S. security would be endangered. Therefore, it is to America’s best interest to financially and militaristically support the small democracy.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has pledged to up foreign aid to Israel, often called the “51st State.” Two weeks ago in South Carolina Romney pledged to “bolster and repair our alliances. Our friends should never fear that we will not stand by them in an hour of need. I will reaffirm as a vital national interest Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.”