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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Monday denied that he once supported ending federal aid to Israel — an idea he proposed as recently as 2011.
“I haven’t really proposed that in the past,” Paul told Yahoo News when asked if he still thought the U.S. should phase out aid to Israel, which has been battling Hamas in Gaza for weeks. “We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position — a legislative position — we have introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid. That’s the answer to that question. Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that. I voted just this week to give money — more money — to the Iron Dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel.”
Paul, who was in Omaha campaigning for Nebraska Senate candidate Ben Sasse before a three-day tour of neighboring Iowa, may not like it when reporters bring up his proposal from three years ago to end all U.S. foreign aid — including to Israel. But that was in fact his position.
In 2011, the newly elected Paul proposed a budget that would have cut $500 billion from the federal budget in part by cutting off foreign aid to all countries, including financial grants to Israel. The United States provides about $3 billion to Israel annually, and last week the Senate approved $225 million to help support Israel’s Iron Dome technology, which blocks rocket fire from Gaza. (Paul supported the measure.)
Paul, in his first months in office, however, defended phasing out aid by saying that the U.S. could no longer afford to give cash to other countries.
“I’m not singling out Israel. I support Israel. I want to be known as a friend of Israel, but not with money you don’t have,” Paul said in 2011 during an interview with ABC News. “We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.”
He even pointed to Israel as an example of a nation that doesn’t need foreign aid because of its own wealth.
“I think they’re an important ally, but I also think that their per capita income is greater than probably three-fourths of the rest of the world,” Paul said, also in 2011. “Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”
Paul, a possible 2016 presidential contender whom some in the GOP regard as insufficiently pro-Israel, has recently changed his tune on foreign aid to the Jewish state. His budget proposals since 2001 have included aid to Israel.
It’s one thing for a politician to admit that his views have changed on an issue and an entirely other thing to say that he never held the position at all.
This article has been updated.