Rand Paul is working hard to polish his pro-Israel credentials.
Hours before meeting on Tuesday with some of the nation’s most influential and well-heeled Jewish GOP donors—including billionaire Sheldon Adelson—Paul introduced his second bill in as many years to cut off American foreign aid to the Palestinian government.
The “Defend Israel by Defunding Palestinian Foreign Aid Act of 2015” would cut off funding for the Palestinian government so long as it seeks recognition in the International Criminal Court, according to a Paul aide. The measure comes in addition to Paul’s “Stand with Israel Act,” introduced last year, which would end U.S. aid until the Palestinian Authority agreed to a cease-fire and recognized the state of Israel.
The dual measures are a sign of Paul’s aggressive push to win over the pro-Israel hawks who have long dominated the Republican Party. As Paul openly explores a bid for the White House in 2016, he has been greeted with something between skepticism and outright hostility by the pro-Israel community, many of whom were turned off by the noninterventionist politics of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul.
Paul introduced the latest pro-Israel bill on Tuesday, less than a week after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas moved to join the International Criminal Court, a move that would open the path to press war-crimes charges against Israel. Paul’s bill would eliminate all U.S. foreign assistance, loan guarantees, and general aid to the Palestine Authority so long as it seeks to join the international court, according to the Paul aide.
Paul previewed the measure last night on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren, arguing that it “hardly seems to me a good idea to give American taxpayer money to a country or an entity that is now saying that an ally of ours—that their soldiers need to be investigated for war crimes.”
On Tuesday night, Paul will make the same pitch in a far more intimate setting. He is expected to attend a gathering of the leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition at a downtown D.C. steakhouse where giant slabs of red meat are visible through glass windows for passersby. The group is celebrating its 2014 successes—including the election of freshman Rep. Lee Zeldin, the only Jewish Republican in Congress.
The board—populated by many of the biggest GOP donors in the nation, including Adelson—has been at the epicenter of Paul’s Jewish outreach, but with only mixed results. Ari Fleischer, the former George W. Bush press secretary and an RJC board member himself, told Politico this week that the board would unite around whoever emerges as the 2016 Republican nominee. “Now, one exception to that would be Rand Paul,” Fleischer added.
As for his bill, Paul said on Fox, “I think there is a very good chance this could pass.”