U.S. Democrats and pro-Israel lobbies slammed on Thursday comments made by newly elected Republican Senator and Tea Party representative Rand Paul who suggested that the United States should halt all foreign aid including its financial aid to Israel.
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In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday Paul said that “Reuters did a poll, and 71 percent of American people agree with me that when we're short of money, where we can't do the things we need to do in our country, we certainly shouldn't be shipping the money overseas.”
When asked by Blitzer if he wanted to halt an annual $3 billion that go to Israel, Paul replied affirmatively, explaining that Egypt recieves almost the same amount .
"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, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East. But at the same time, I don't think funding both sides of the arm race, particularly when we have to borrow the money from China to send it to someone else. We just can't do it anymore. The debt is all- consuming and it threatens our well-being as a country,” Paul said.
Pro-Israel Jewish lobby J Street issued a statement in response to Paul's comments saying it was “alarmed” by his suggestion.
“Senator Paul’s proposal would undermine the decades-long bipartisan consensus on U.S. support for Israel. Any erosion of support should concern Israel’s friends on both sides of the political aisle, and we call in particular on leaders and donors in Senator Paul’s party to repudiate his comments and ensure that American leadership around the world is not threatened by this irresponsible proposal," the statement issued by J Street read.
National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) President and CEO David Harris also condemned his statement saying that “Paul's suggestion is negligent, shortsighted, and just plain wrong,” adding that “foreign aid in general, and aid to Israel in particular, is crucial to Israel's security and its pursuit of peace. Senator Paul's statement is yet another illustration of how the Republican Party continues to grow increasingly out of touch with the values of the vast majority of the American Jewish community."
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Ranking member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, called the initiative “shocking”.
“Israel is the only democratic nation in the Middle East and one of our most stalwart allies”, Lowey said. “A stable and secure Israel is in our national security interest and has been a staple of our foreign policy for more than sixty years. Using our budget deficit as a reason to abandon Israel is inexcusable. It is unclear to me whether Rand Paul speaks for the Tea Party, the Republican Party, or simply himself”.
Meanwhile, Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks issued a statement saying "we share Senator Paul's commitment to restraining the growth of federal spending, but we reject his misguided proposal to end U.S. assistance to our ally, Israel."
"Moreover, based on his comments in an interview with CNN, we are concerned that Senator Paul may not grasp the fundamentals of our alliance with Israel. In 2007, the U.S. and Israel signed a ten-year 'Memorandum of Understanding' (MoU) to govern U.S. assistance going forward. A critical aim of the MoU was to preserve Israel's qualitative military advantage. Accordingly, any concern that U.S. assistance might undermine Israel's security is groundless," Brooks said.