Sen. Rand Paul on the Defensive Over Israel Funding Controversy

Image: Sen. Rand Paul on the Defensive Over Israel Funding Controversy (Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 11:33 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Tuesday he supports sending aid from the United States to Israel, but he still thinks that it would be better for Israel if "they were completely independent."

"I've always said that my position is similar to [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu's position," Paul told CNN from Davenport, Iowa. "It ultimately for Israel would be even better if they were completely independent. But I haven't proposed targeting, or eliminating, any aid to Israel.”

Paul is under fire from Democrats on his past proposals ending foreign aid to other countries, including Israel. On Monday, CNN reported, Paul denied he had ever proposed "a legislative proposal" to end the foreign aid.

"You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position, a legislative position, we have never introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid,” he told reporters Monday. “That’s the answer to that question.”

Paul remained on the defensive Tuesday, telling CNN that he has "spent the last four years trying to put conditions on aid to people who hate us and burn our flag," and that he has "also talked about that every country ultimately be better off to be independent."

Further, said Paul, he has "had several budgets since then that actually don't completely zero it out, and would allow Israel to continue to have foreign aid."

Paul continued that he has called to stop U.S. aid for Pakistan as a country that persecutes Christians, and to end assistance for Palestinians for aligning with Hamas militants.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Paul is courting the support of pro-Israel Republican Party donors. Last week he voted to support a $225 million bill to support the Iron Dome, Israel's anti-missile defense system, as it fights off attacks by Hamas.

But opponents are pointing at statements Paul has made, including a 2011 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in which he said while he has "a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation" he didn't "think funding both sides of the arms race, particularly when we have to borrow the money from China to send it to someone else."

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