U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) joined six of his Democratic colleagues in condemning a Republican’s suggestion to halt foreign aid to Israel.
The proposal came from freshman Rand Paul (R-Ky.) during a Jan. 23 interview with CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. He told Blitzer he wanted to end “all foreign aid” as part of a $500 billion cut in government spending.
“When you send foreign aid, you actually [send] quite a bit to Israel’s enemies,” said Rand, who won Tea Party backing for his campaign. “Islamic nations around Israel get quite a bit of foreign aid, too. You have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East.”
When the interviewer asked if that meant ending aid to Israel, Paul answered “yes.”
The seven Democrats fired back on Feb. 1 with a letter to the chairs of the two House committees where foreign aid bills originate.
The letter called Paul’s suggestion “alarming” and said it would “weaken the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel.”
“Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and one of our most trusted allies,” the letter stated. “A stable and secure Israel is strongly in our national security interest and has been a cornerstone of our foreign policy for over half a century. Using Congress’ bipartisan commitment to reining in government spending as a reason to abandon Israel is unacceptable and should be immediately rejected.”
The letter was sent to Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) of the Appropriations Committee and Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) of the Budget Committee.
Republicans as well as Democrats have denounced Paul’s proposal. “We reject his misguided proposal to end U.S. assistance to our ally, Israel,” said the Republican Jewish Coalition in a Jan. 27 statement. “We are heartened to know that, with very few exceptions, congressional Republicans understand and appreciate the importance of this alliance to America’s national security. And we are confident that few — if any — of Senator Paul’s Republican colleagues will cosponsor a plan that reneges on an agreement with a critical ally.”
Paul’s press secretary, Gary Howard, responded to the criticism in an e-mail to NJ Jewish News.
“The fact that Israel is our ally is not in dispute here. What is in dispute is where we spend taxpayer money in a fiscal crisis,” Howard wrote. “The simple fact is, there is no such bipartisan consensus yet to rein in spending, certainly not a serious one. We look forward to serious proposals to fix our fiscal crisis from both sides.”
This article was prepared with the help of JTA.