Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul warned that “we may be fueling an arms race” in the Middle East after returning from his first trip to Israel.
Paul also repeated calls for reduced foreign aid to Israel and other U.S. allies in the region while acknowledging that his position — at least in the case of Israel — isn’t widely shared by fellow GOP lawmakers.
“I will say that, while a lot of Republicans have universally supported all foreign aid (to Israel), and many still do without condition, I think there is a growing conservative contingent that recognizes that we are out of money and also recognizes that we may well be fueling an arms race that makes it much more expensive for Israel to defend herself, ” said Paul during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.
Paul went on to add that “American politicians presume they know how to bring peace to the Middle East by basically telling Israel or others how to behave. I think they really miss the point that nobody can really know about security over there or peace or stability — nobody can ever know as much as those who live in that region.”
The Bluegrass State senator also said that only Israel should decide where settlements should be built along the West Bank.
When asked about the Israeli reaction to President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be the next defense secretary, Paul said one member of the Knesset told him “it’s none of our business.”
Hagel, a former Senator from Nebraska, has been heavily criticized by Republicans and some Democrats for his past comments about the “Jewish lobby,” and his failure to support sanctions against Iran.
Paul, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he hasn’t decided how he will vote when Hagel's nomination comes before the Senate.
“I’m open to hearing about his viewpoints. I’ve been reading about him. And soon we will either meet or hear more about him as the committee moves forward with his nomination. But I haven’t come to a conclusion yet,” Paul said.
On a more personal level, Paul called the trip “spectacular.”
“I’m a Christian and going over there and seeing all the things that I have read about in the Bible and visiting the different locations, starring across the Sea of Galilee . . . really brought home a lot of the stories I read in my youth and through adulthood,” he added.
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