Presidential candidate Ron Paul's stance on Israel is frightening to many who support the Jewish state. The Texas congressman advocates for an immediate suspension of foreign aid for all countries, including Israel, America's strongest ally in the Middle East and its largest recipient of foreign aid. While some argue this would make Israel vulnerable, others say it will make Israel stronger, even going so far as calling Paul the one, true “Zionist” in the GOP race.
Since 1985, the U.S. has given Israel an average of $3 billion in grants every year. In Aug. 2007, the Bush Administration promised that it would increase U.S. military aid to Israel by $6 billion over the next decade, with annual increases every year until 2011, according to a Congressional Research Survey (CRS).
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama agreed to send another $3 billion in aid, while also allowing Israel to purchase American war planes with $2.75 billion in grants provided by Congress.
There are varying reports as to exactly how much money the U.S. spends on Israel, but according to the CRS, the total amount of aid given to Israel, not including 2011 amounts, totals $109 billion since 1946, with nearly half of it having been given between 1997 and 2010.
Given that the U.S. in an economic crisis, foreign aid is one of Paul's main target of items to budget out, arguing foreign aid does little for Americans and little for the people in other countries it is meant to serve.
“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,” Paul said in an October debate. “To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries.”
Paul has also argued that cutting aid to Israel is not only sound economic policy, but would also make Israel stronger by allowing the nation to practice more sovereignty in its affairs with neighboring countries, which is more in line with the philosophy behind the founding of Israel.
“I think Israel should be treated as an independent nation and not a puppet of our state,” Paul said in a YouTube interview in December. “Now what they have is they depend on us for military, they depend on us for money, and if they want a peace treaty, they have to ask us. If they want to defend their borders, they have to get permission. But I think what some people fail to understand is Zionism is based on two basic principles: independence and self-reliance.”
Paul has also said on several occasions that Israel has enough firepower to defend itself in the event that it gets attacked.
“Israel has 200, 300 nuclear missiles. And they can take care of themselves,” Paul said at the CNN foreign policy debate this month.
Jeffry Goldberg of The Atlantic, wrote that Paul “is, in one sense, a true Zionist, a believer in two core values of the Jewish liberation movement: Jewish independence and Jewish self-reliance. Independence is self-explanatory; self-reliance, in the context of national defense, holds that the Jewish state shouldn't seek the help of foreign soldiers to defend it.”
Seth Lipsky, writing in the New York Sun, disagreed with Paul's desire to cut military aid to Israel, but agreed with the congressman's desire to roll back economic aid because it delayed Israel's self-reliance and represented “a dangerous course for recipient countries.”
Lipsky said this viewpoint has been held by many Jews for quite a while, citing a 1991 editorial from the Jewish Forward newspaper after then-President George H.W. Bush tacked on an extra $650 million to Israel in what the paper described as an “already bloated aid package” that would be “yet another draught of poison that will sap Israel’s incentive to reform its economy and further forestall the day when the Jewish state can stand on its own.”
Nevertheless, many American Jews disagree with Paul's stance on Israel, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, which did not invite Paul to its Dec. 7 forum in which all other GOP candidates were invited, because it found his views “misguided and extreme,” according to the Washington Jewish Week.
Writing in Huffington Post, David A. Harris, president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council went even further, accusing Paul of racism because of anti-Israel newsletters published under his name (Paul has denied writing them). Harris has also insinuated Paul prefers Iran over Israel, due to an interview the congressman had with an Iranian news outlet about why the U.S. should cut foreign aid to the Jewish state.
As for evangelical Christians who worry about Paul's stance on Israel, the libertarian congressman sought to address those worries in an interview with Newsmax, saying:
“I say to [evangelical Christians] that our aid in the region is out of balance and it is wrong,” Paul said. “Foreign aid does not help Israel. It is a net disadvantage. I say to them that 'the borrower is servant to the lender' and America should never be the master of Israel and its fate. We should be her friend.”