Paul, who generally opposes all foreign aid, has softened his stance a bit in regard to Israel, which he plans to visit for the first time this spring. He said his earlier calls to end aid to Israel were misinterpreted and were simply part of a larger focus on fiscal restraint.
Sen. Rand Paul, an outspoken opponent of all foreign aid, is ready to make an exception for Israel.
The freshman Kentucky Republican, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, still says the United States should reduce its spending by cutting foreign assistance to countries such as Egypt and Libya, where U.S. diplomatic missions have been attacked. He also wants to halt aid to Pakistan until it releases from jail a local doctor who helped U.S. forces in the operation that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
But Paul has changed his tune on aid to Israel, which he once said should not be spared from his call for an end to foreign aid.
ďWhat Iíve said is that we canít continue to spend a trillion dollars we donít have, so we have to look everywhere for cuts, and foreign aid is one of those areas,Ē he said Tuesday. ďWithin foreign aid, I would start with cutting those who donít appear to be our allies. The one thing you can say about Israel is there doesnít seem to be any mobs burning our flag there.Ē
Paul plans to make his first trip to Israel in the spring. He said he would be traveling with a group of evangelical Christian clergymen. Evangelicals, for whom support for Israel is as important as such social issues as opposing abortion, are a key constituency for any GOP presidential hopeful.
ďIíve never been a proponent of saying, ĎOh, letís go punish Israel,íĒ Paul said. ďIíve made general statements about foreign aid that some in the pro-Israel community have misinterpreted to mean that I have some sort of animosity toward Israel. Thatís not true.Ē
In a February 2011 interview with ABC News, Paul said his calls to end aid to Israel were part of his larger push for fiscal restraint.
ďIím not singling out Israel. I support Israel,Ē he said at the time. ďI want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you donít have. We canít just borrow from our kidsí future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.Ē