WASHINGTON – Pro-Israel activists across the political spectrum have harshly criticized Republican Sen. Rand Paul for his moves delaying the delivery of $1 billion in emergency funding for Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile system.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, perhaps the most powerful pro-Israel organization, linked Paul to progressive House members – and frequent AIPAC targets – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, three of the four members of the so-called Squad.
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AIPAC also lambasted a second Kentucky Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie, for not backing the emergency aid.
Christians United for Israel, an evangelical group, also sharply criticized Paul for treating the aid like a “political game.”
“Whatever concerns he has on other issues should be addressed in a manner that does not put innocent lives at risk,” said the founder and chairman of Christians United for Israel, Pastor John Hagee.
“The legislation he is blocking advanced through the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support. Senator Paul needs to stop playing games with the safety of the Israeli people.”
Democratic Majority for Israel, a group that also chided progressive lawmakers over the Iron Dome vote, urging supporters to pressure Paul to “stop the political games.” It also wants Paul’s Republican colleagues to stand up to him and “not abandon our ally.”
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On Monday, Paul objected to Sen. Bob Menendez’s efforts to unanimously pass the Iron Dome bill, which made it through the House last week. Menendez was trying to get all 100 senators on board; this would have eliminated the need for a formal process to pass it.
Paul’s objection, on the grounds that the aid should be funded with money for rebuilding Afghanistan, has thus delayed a formal vote by days and potentially weeks.
The CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council for America, Halie Soifer, criticized the Republican Party for not openly criticizing the latest developments.
Israeli officials were not surprised by the additional delay. Ahead of the vote, diplomatic sources said that individual senators might put up obstacles – even if they weren’t critics of Israeli policy, they would see a chance to generate headlines by delaying the funds.
“We are working very hard on it,” a senior diplomatic source said.
In recent weeks, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held remote briefings, phone calls and meetings in a bid to court Republican and Democratic senators ahead of the vote. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has fully thrown himself into the effort to push the funds through.
“We still don’t know if the incident involving the Iron Dome funding was a one-off event or if it will resurface regarding every special request of ours,” the diplomatic source said.
The official Israeli position presented in talks with Congress is not to define Iron Dome as a defense system, so as to not to create a distinction that could be used later to reject other Israeli requests.
Jonathan Lis reported from Israel.