In Budget-Cut Theater, Israel's a Prime Plot Device

By Nathan Guttman

  • Print
  • Share Share
Senator Rand Paul

Foreign aid to Israel is one of those issues that serve all political sides well. This was demonstrated in recent weeks by the latest uproar over the suggestion by Rand Paul, the recently elected U.S. Senator from Kentucky, to cut U.S. aid to Israel.

For Paul, who mentioned in a CNN interview that he supports slashing the $3 billion aid package to Israel, and then reiterated the point in an ABC interview, the statement plays out well with his crowd. As a leading Tea Party politician, Paul knows he was sent to Washington in order to cut government expenses. Taking on the most explosive expense of all — aid to America’s foremost Middle East ally — just shows voters how serious he is about cutting costs.

For Republicans this could seem an embarrassment, but it actually gives the GOP yet another chance to prove just how pro-Israel it is. Sen. Paul provided leading Republicans with an opportunity to publicly vow their support for Israel, with the benefit of an added subtext saying, “We love Israel so much that we’re willing even to come out against a Tea Party standard-bearer, no matter what political price we’ll have to pay.”

Needless to say, there is no real political price, since Paul’s call to cut aid to Israel is not going anywhere and will never reach any kind of serious debate in Congress. He simply doesn’t have the troops to back such a call on Capitol Hill.

And for the Democrats, the Kentucky freshman’s statements about Israel are a great opportunity to explain, once again, why the Democrats are the true supporters of Israel — not the Republicans who accommodate views such as Paul’s. (See today’s op-ed by Democratic New York Rep. Nita Lowey in Politico.)

So who stands to lose from raising the issue?

Only Israel and its backers.

Decades of lobbying and high-level negotiations had succeeded in cultivating a quiet understanding regarding aid to Israel. These include increased aid (as part of a 10-year agreement) and other perks that other recipients of foreign aid can only dream of, including early disbursement of the funds, plus permission to spend parts of the aid in Israel, instead of it all going to buying goods from U.S. defense industries.

But most important is the fact that it was all done quietly. Aid to Israel is seen in the political system as a given and is spared the debate that almost all other budget expenses are subject to.

Rand Paul has now put aid to Israel in the spotlight. And even though his call to cut the funding will not cause Israel to lose a penny from the assistance it receives from America, it will make people look again. Here’s an easy exercise: Try to remember, when was the last time the media reported on legislation providing aid to Israel? Hard to remember. The $3 billion package usually gets a couple of lines in the Congressional newspapers and a brief notice in the Jewish media.

Now, look what will happen this year. Aid to Israel is already getting way more attention than in the past and when discussions get underway in the appropriation committees, it will get even more. And that is something that worries Israel and her advocates.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tea Party, Rand Paul, Nita Lowey

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.