Ron Paul and the Israel question
Photo: Associated Press
Among social conservatives, who tend to be in favor of heavy defense spending and to be staunch supporters of Israel, this take on the Texas congressman’s campaign is all too common. Members of this large and very important electoral block appreciate Paul’s fiscal sanity, his dedication to Austrian economics, and his determination to cut $1 trillion in his first year in office. They embrace his pro-life position and concern for homeschooling rights. Some of them are beginning to understand his opposition to an unaccountable central bank and call to end the Federal Reserve. He also receives accolades because he respects the U.S. Constitution so stalwartly. But they just can’t get over his approach to foreign policy, which they see as dangerous and anti-Israel. The question we need to be asking is whether this disconnect is really a result of Dr. Paul’s policies or only of how these voters perceive them.
One of the strongest charges against the congressman is that he advocates cutting foreign aid to Israel. That fact alone makes many unwilling to consider supporting him or even take time to learn more about his position. This knee-jerk reaction prevents many voters from coming to an understanding of Paul’s beliefs, or even of the particulars surrounding his statements.
“To me, foreign aid is taking money from poor people in this country and giving it to rich people in poor countries, and it becomes weapons of war –” said Paul at the Western Republican Presidential Debate.
“Congressman Paul, would you cut foreign aid to Israel?” interrupted the moderator.
“I would cut all foreign aid,” the candidate responded. “I would treat everybody equally and fairly.”
Paul’s aim then is not to cut foreign aid to Israel specifically, but to cut foreign aid to everybody the US currently supports abroad. As he explained in an interview with Newsmax last month, Israel would actually come out on top in such a scenario.
“Stop and consider America’s policy,” the congressman said, “We give $3 billion a year to Israel in loans; and we give $12 billion or more in assistance to Israel’s self-declared enemies. Some of these are countries that say they will drive Israel into the sea.”
“What should our relationship be with Israel?” asked Newsmax contributor Doug Wead.
“We should be their friend and their trading partner,” said Paul. “They are a democracy and we share many values with them. But we should not be their master. We should not dictate where their borders will be nor should we have veto power over their foreign policy….I say [to Christian evangelicals who want foreign aid to Israel to continue] that our aid in the region is out of balance and it is wrong. 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…we should stop interfering with them. We should not dictate what she can and cannot do. We should stop trying to buy her allegiance. And Israel should stop sacrificing their sovereignty as an independent state to us or anybody else, no matter how well-intentioned.”
Paul then went on to talk about previous conflicts in which he had shown support for the sovereignty of Israel.Unbeknownst to many, the candidate stood by Israel three decades ago when she was heavily criticized by most politicians in congress at that the time.
“In October, 1981, most of the world and most of the Congress voiced outrage over Israel’s attack on Iraq and their nuclear development. I was one of the few who defended her right to make her own decisions on foreign policy and to act in her own self-interest.”
Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic recently wrote that Ron Paul’s position is actually the closest to a Zionist of all the Republican candidates, because, “a true Zionist is a believer in two core values of the Jewish liberation movement: Jewish independence and Jewish self-reliance.”
It would seem that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also feels strongly about the importance of Israel’s independence and self-reliance – values that Paul insists are crucial to the Jewish nation. Said Netanyahu in his 2011 address to the U.S. congress,
“My friends, you don't have to—you don't need to do nation-building in Israel. We're already built. You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it. And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves."
Israel certainly does defend herself. It has been estimated that the nation possesses from 75 to as many as 400 nuclear weapons.
In addition to concerns about undermining Israel’s national sovereignty through interference with their policies, Paul has offered another major reason why the foreign aid spending has to go. “We’re in bankruptcy,” he says, referring to the United States, a country with a $15.2 trillion national debt. “We’re not going to be there forever, we’re going to come home.” Thus, he maintains that dependence on U.S. money is “a bad risk” for Israel. “I think their dependency on us is very, very harmful to them,” he stated.
Perhaps social conservatives and Israel-supporters should take another look at Ron Paul and determine, based on the full import of his statements, whether he really is as anti-Israel as some of the media networks suggest. With his concern for her long-term interests and condemnation of the substantial U.S. funding extended to her enemies, could it be that Dr. No really has the best stance on Israel, one that will provide her with the strongest national defense and the most wholesome relationship with America?