Rand Paul Is Right: End Welfare To Israel, And The Rest Of The World

The debate over Senator Rand Paul's proposed $500 billion spending cut plan has focused almost exclusively on one issue, and one nation.

At the end of a page long piece about conflicts between Tea Party goals on spending and the reality of what Washington Republicans are actually doing, Politico’s Jennifer Epstein focuses Rand Paul’s call for cuts in the foreign aid budget on one specific country:

Paul also defended his calls to end aid to Israel, saying they’re just part of his bigger efforts at fiscal responsibility. “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,” he said. “We can’t just borrow from our kids’ future and give it to countries, even if they are our friends.”

And, he said, giving money to the country is especially unwise considering Israel’s relative 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,” he said. “Should we be giving free money or welfare to a wealthy nation? I don’t think so.”

The same thing happened last week when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interview Paul about his proposed $500 billion in spending cuts, which include massive across-the-board cuts in the foreign aid budget:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul wants to end all foreign assistance, including aid to Israel.

Paul, a Republican newly elected in Kentucky, was on CNN Wednesday outlining where he would cut the $500 billion in government spending he says is critical to sustaining the U.S. economy. His focus was on the departments of energy, education and housing.

Interviewer Wolf Blitzer then asked about foreign assistance, asking if he wanted to end “all foreign aid.” Paul said yes, and Blitzer asked him about aid to Israel.

“Well, I think what you have to do is you have to look,” Paul said. “When you send foreign aid, you actually [send] quite a bit to Israel’s enemies. Islamic nations around Israel get quite a bit of foreign aid, too.

“You have to ask yourself, are we funding an arms race on both sides? I have a lot of sympathy and respect for Israel as a democratic nation, as a, you know, a fountain of peace and a fountain of democracy within the Middle East.”

Blitzer pressed, “End all foreign aid including the foreign aid to Israel as well. Is that right?” he asked.

Paul answered, “Yes.”

Foreign aid to Israel amounts to roughly $3 billion a year, which amounts to a mere 5 percent of the total foreign aid budget, and that budget itself amounts to about 1 percent of total Federal spending. It’s a small amount in the grand scheme of things and, yet, when the subject of cutting the foreign aid budget comes up, it inevitably focuses on Israel and anyone who suggests that maybe we need to rethink the idea of sending billions of dollars a year overseas when we can’t even afford to do so, they’re asked the question what about Israel?

Well, here’s the truth. It’s not about Israel, and it never should be.

To the extent foreign aid should even exist the sole question that matters is whether it is being spent in a manner that advances and protects the interests of the United States. That’s all. Despite what groups like AIPAC may say, it isn’t the job of legislators on Capitol Hill to worry about the interests of Israel.

In this case, Senator Paul is making an argument that others have made recently; namely that it isn’t at all in the interests of the United States to be spending money that we don’t have and, if we’re going to cut spending (which we have to do) then it makes sense to start with money that is going to nations that can afford to pay for their own defense. This doesn’t just mean Israel, but the countless other nations around the world who are living without the worries of a defense budget thanks to a U.S. military umbrella that they don’t contribute to financially. The gravy train is over folks, you’re going to have to do a little more to take care of yourselves from now on.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Democracy, Middle East, National Security, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. This Guy says:

    Carter started this as part of the Israeli-Egypt Peace agreement in the late 70s. We give a ton of money to Egypt too — to build their army. Its insanity. I agree that we need to considerably scale back our aid. The argument that it’s ONLY 1% – well, where the hell else do you start making cuts it its not with 1%?

  2. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol yeah, But why start with the rest of the world? lets cut foreign aid to the USA first!!!!!!

    Get it down and then get r done!

  3. ponce says:

    “Its insanity.”

    It may be insane, but it has worked for over 30 years.

  4. Larry says:

    Israel is required to spend that money in the United States — in essence its money coming back to US-based companies , supporting US jobs and our economy.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    Of course it shouldn’t be just about Israel but of course it is. For the same reason that talk of cutting education will come down to some handicapped kid who needs DoE money to finish school. The same reason that talk of eliminating tax cuts for the well-off invariably comes down to some struggling family business that happened one year to make one dollar more than the limit. Or talk of gun control somehow involves the founding fathers having their 30 round magazines and cop-killer bullets taken away. (The sacred Republican gun cult.)

    Policies are always judged by their most extreme possible consequence, and the political ads that follow, and the number of pols willing to hurl themselves onto their swords. Politically Israel is that extreme case. In reality we should probably worry more about cutting foreign aid where it will mean people dying. But Israel is the test case.

    I would guess Rand Paul can round up a good, oh, 10 or 12 senators to cut all aid to Israel. That’s why it’s about Israel.

  6. Robert C says:

    On a per capita basis, the amount of money that Israel receives from the US dwarfs ALL other countries.

    Further, this post begs the question, what do we get for that aid.

    Lets be honest here. When we give aid there is a reasonable expectation that they to do things that are in the America’s national interest. this is not the case with Israel. Settlements are not in America’s interests. Annexation of East Jerusalem is not in the America’s interest. Failing to sign the NPT is not in Americas interest. Embaressing the US with announcements of new settlements when high ranking US dignitaries arrive in Israel is not in America’s interest. Stonewalling UN investigations is not in America’s interests.

    Frankly, I am not convinced any of this would change if we stopped all aid. But one has to ask, why do we give this aid to a wealthy country??


  7. BrettR says:

    I think there is a big difference between the military aid we send to Egypt and Israel and the development aid we send to the third world through USAID and other agencies, which contributes to economic development and educational improvements. In that sense, I think it is fair to talk about the aid we give to Israel on its own, and I think you have not adequately distinguished between these different kinds of aid.

    I think it is unquestionable (as Secretary Clinton has emphasized recently) that this aid is in the long term national security interests of the US – insofar as a wealthier and better educated third world can curb conflict and terrorism. I don’t think you can make the same argument about our aid to Israel, which is using said aid to achieve aims contrary to ours in the Palestinian territory,

  8. michael reynolds says:

    Robert C:

    On the other side of the ledger, Stuxnet was sure in our interest. So are the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists — not that we’re sure that was Mossad.

  9. Robert C. says:

    Michael Reynolds:

    Be careful what you wish for. Did we really need Stuxnet now? Did we/Israel just blow our trump card? It is out there now, people are learning from it, how to stop it, how to make their own. Furthermore, some reports suggest it could have caused a Chernobyl type meltdown. We and Israel would be blamed for this. The assassinations?…probably just motivates Iran more.

    Robert C.

  10. ponce says:

    “…in essence its money coming back to US-based companies , supporting US jobs and our economy.”

    And then Israel turns around and sells America’s latest military technology to the Chinese.

    Not sure if this is such a bargain in the long run.

  11. Dave Schuler says:

    As ponce notes the context of U. S. aid to Israel and Egypt is bering neglected. It’s unclear to me how major war that extends throughout the Middle East and might possibly include the use of nuclear weapons is in our interests.

  12. steve says:

    One can make the case that some foreign aid is a good investment in avoiding future conflicts. That it would let us spend less on the defense budget. Eliminating all foreign aid may have unintended consequences.


  13. george says:

    >And then Israel turns around and sells America’s latest military technology to the Chinese.

    Not sure if this is such a bargain in the long run.

    Yup, better to just sell it directly ourselves, cut out the middle man. Because seriously, that is what happens.

    Whether cutting this aid is a good idea or not, its a non-starter in terms of senate votes.

  14. anjin-san says:

    Certainly we need to audit all foreign aid, and make sure we are getting actual value for our money. Just saying “cut it all” simply shows that Paul is an inexperience lightweight trying to make a little noise any way he can.

    I don’t remember the “fiscal responsibility” crowd complaining about vast tax breaks for oil companies that were making the largest profits in the history of capitalism a few years back. These folks don’t have a lot of credibility.

    By all means, let’s get on the road to financial responsibility. Clinton had us on the right track not so long ago, then the GOP flushed all he accomplished down the drain while a lot of folks who are not tea party types cheered them on.

  15. matt says:

    michael reynolds : Uh dude all bullets can potentially be “cop-killer bullets” I have no idea what kind of crazy you’re trying to pull. BTW the Virginia killer had standard mags and we all know how well he did despite not having the dreaded evil high cap magazines (I prefer high cap mags for target shooting but they can have spring issues).

  16. matt says:

    Title 18, U.S. Code Section 922

  17. matt says:

    So after doing some googling I discovered that there’s left wingers going crazy over AP ammo because it’s “cop killers” or something stupid. If you read the above link you’ll see that AP ammo for pistols is completely illegal unless they are pre-ban and even then you’re looking at potential legal issues. AP for rifles is kinda overkill as a FMJ rifle can penetrate standard bulletproof vests. There’s also the whole headshot thing that kinda nullifies a body vest..

  18. matt says:

    Oh and that ban covers some rounds used by rifles because there are certain calibers that are used by both pistols and rifles such as the 308 or 7.62 mm..

  19. Loper says:

    I agree with Rand Paul, if your broke, which we are as a country. Why borrow money to send to any other country if we do not have the money. While he is at it I hope that the idea to put congress back on social security and cut their lavish retirement plan for life takes hold. Plus cut welfare, instead have work reimbursement. I am tired of the lazy freeloaders. Oh I know, a liberal will pipe in and say what about the children or some other liberal cry. The fact is all of us, not just the freeloaders, are going to be broke if the dollar collapses.