the national interest

Rand Paul Attacks Israel Lobby From the Right

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
We all want to stick it to the Palestinians, amirite? Photo: J. Scott Applewhite

The largest single obstacle on Rand Paul’s journey to transform himself from the sort of uncontrollable kook who frightens the Republican Establishment into the sort of malleable kook who’s acceptable to the Republican Establishment may be Israel. Republicans love America’s alliance with Israel, and Paul is a committed isolationist.

Paul has worked assiduously to make himself acceptable on this front, traveling to Israel and softening his anti-foreign-aid stance when it comes to the Jewish state. Paul’s most recent step has been to call for ending all American aid to the Palestinian Authority. It seemed like a brilliant stroke: Now Paul’s isolationism can be used in the service of wooing Israel hawks rather than antagonizing them!

Alas, it hasn’t worked out quite so simply. AIPAC, the main pro-Israel lobby, opposes Paul’s bill. Aide to the Palestinian Authority helps Israel, both by subsidizing the PA’s security, which cracks down on terrorism, and by building the Palestinian state.

Now, it is true that some Israel hawks like Paul’s idea. The far-right Zionist Organization of America has endorsed it, and from the perspective of an organization militantly opposed to a two-state solution, cutting off aide to the Palestinian Authority makes perfect sense. If the PA crumbles fully into a failed state, and terrorism explodes, the conflict will be re-militarized and the prospects for negotiated settlement will recede even farther over the horizon. Paul’s proposal is probably also something he can sell to evangelical Christians who believe Israel must and should control every inch of the biblical land of Israel so that all sides can fulfill their destiny of perishing in a fiery inferno.

Paul is now lashing out at AIPAC for opposing his bill:

Ironically, the group AIPAC is pushing back this bill and this is to me very troubling,” Paul told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

The American people, if they knew that, would be very, very upset and think, ‘you know what, those people are no longer lobbying in favor of America and Israel if they’re not willing to put restrictions on aid to Palestinians.

So if Paul is looking to make himself appealing to hawkish Republican voters, he’s probably made a shrewd move. If he’s looking to make himself less frightening to Establishmentarians, he has badly bungled the job.