Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is blocking U.S. military aid to Israel.
Paul, who has previously called to cut defense assistance to Israel, recently put a hold on the U.S.-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act of 2018, which codifies into law the $38 billion defense aid package for Israel over 10 years that was negotiated in the final days of the Obama administration.
A hold is a parliamentary procedure that allows senators to prevent a motion from reaching a floor vote.
The Senate passed the act in early August; the House of Representatives followed suit the following month. Now the Senate must pass a final version in line with the bill passed by the House.
In a prepared statement sent by email, Paul says he plans to propose an amendment to the act that would pay for it by defunding assistance to the Palestinian Authority and other actors while limiting aid to Israel “in time and scope so we aren’t doing it forever.”
“This is Washington’s dirty little secret: The U.S. gives foreign aid to enemies of Israel,” Paul says in the statement. “Each time I’ve tried to stop giving aid to enemies of the U.S. and Israel, I have been thwarted. Often by groups that claim they are pro-Israel.
He concludes by suggesting that Israel doesn’t need U.S. assistance the way it once did.
“I also agree with Conservative leader Naftali Bennett, who has said, ‘Today, U.S. military aid is roughly 1 percent of Israel’s economy…. our situation today is very different from what it was 20 and 30 years ago. Israel is much stronger, much wealthier, and we need to be independent.’”
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, has bought advertisements on Facebook identifying Paul as the main force blocking the act, the Washington Free Beacon reported, citing what it called sources close to the effort.
In a statement, AIPAC said, “This bipartisan bill seeks to ensure Israel has the means necessary to defend itself, by itself, against a range of growing and emerging threats”
AIPAC also is calling for an additional $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel and $500 million in cooperative missile defense funding for fiscal year 2019, “as called for in the 2015 U.S.-Israel Memorandum of Understanding on security assistance,” the statement added.
Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, sent out an Action Alert email blast on Monday to its supporters calling on them to flood Paul’s office with calls and letters encouraging him to support the legislation. CUFI also invested heavily in ads in Kentucky to target the senator’s constituents directly on the issue, the Free Beacon reported.
Paul, a presidential candidate in 2016, alienated pro-Israel Republicans almost as soon as he became a senator in 2011, when he embraced his congressman father’s longtime call to cut defense assistance to Israel. The younger Paul later backtracked, saying he regarded Israel as a close ally, and would cut assistance only once it was clear the country was self-sufficient in its defense needs.
The hold comes as Israel faces major immediate threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Iran.
The $38 billion deal negotiated in 2016 is the most generous ever to Israel. The act also expands a stockpile of weapons that the United States keeps in Israel, which may access the stockpile in wartime. It also enhances Israel’s qualitative military edge and urges space research cooperation between Israel and the United States.