Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) arrived in Israel Sunday along with a delegation of GOP leaders for an right-day tour which has brought him international recognition and bolstered pundits speculating about the younger Paul’s (son of former GOP president Ron Paul) presidential ambitions.
Accompanied in and out by an entourage of over 50 top Republican Party operatives, including evangelical leaders, state GOP chairs from Iowa and South Carolina (important presidential primary states ...), and prominent Jewish donors, Rand will meet with a plethora of regional leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres, President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Israeli politicians.
The trip is funded by the American Family Association, a (sometimes controversial) conservative advocacy group. The trip is widely believed to be part of an effort to bolster the senator’s foreign policy credibility before he joins the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this month. It also gives Rand an opportunity to distance himself from his father, a 24-year Texas congressman, whose foreign policy views were often scorned by the mainstream Republican Party.
“We will be slightly different on some policy,” Senator Paul said in a recent interview. Although he, like the senior Paul, opposes foreign aid on principle, he has moderated his position, focusing instead on eliminating aid to countries with strained U.S. relationships. In recent weeks, the senator has assured donors and pro-Israeli Republicans that he is not seeking to cut aid to Israel.
The senator has recently been in the news over speculation he will run for president in 2016, a move which the senator has teased at before. “I haven’t said no, and I haven’t also said yes,” Paul commented regarding his presidential ambitions.
It will be interesting to say the least to see how Paul, an isolationist libertarian who opposes U.S. military bases and intervention abroad, will bond with Middle Eastern leaders deeply reliant on American involvement in the region. Check back over the coming days for future updates on Paul's trip, including how his meetings with those leaders progress.