I knew before reading the story that that was untrue because I remembered the clip where he talked about it. Alllll the way back in January 2011, right after Paul was sworn in as a senator, he floated a budget proposal that would have cut $500 billion in federal spending — in one year. That was his way of raising the bar after all the attention lavished on Paul Ryan for his “roadmap” to entitlement reform. If you want to see fiscal restraint, Paul seemed to be saying, get a load of this. It was a smart bit of branding, introducing himself as the tea party/libertarian hybrid who’d be willing to push the Overton window further right than any of the business-as-usual types already in Washington. And as the Overton window moved, so too would America’s approach to foreign aid. No more aid to anyone, Paul demanded. We simply can’t afford it. Does that include Israel, asked Wolf Blitzer? Watch the first clip below, from late January 2011, for the answer.

Yahoo News asked him the question again today. Result:

“I haven’t really proposed that in the past,” Paul told Yahoo News when asked if he still thought the U.S. should phase out aid to Israel, which has been battling Hamas in Gaza for weeks. “We’ve never had a legislative proposal to do that. You can mistake my position, but then I’ll answer the question. That has not been a position—a legislative position—we have introduced to phase out or get rid of Israel’s aid. That’s the answer to that question. Israel has always been a strong ally of ours and I appreciate that. I voted just this week to give money—more money—to the Iron Dome, so don’t mischaracterize my position on Israel.”

He’s never supported cutting aid specifically to Israel, I think he means to say, but yeah, he’s most certainly supported turning off the tap to the world at large, Israel included. You can understand why his memory might be “foggy” on that: Foreign policy is his biggest liability in the primaries and there’s no foreign-policy litmus test within the GOP as important as support for Israel, something Paul’s been at pains to demonstrate since he was a candidate. We’re close enough to the 2016 campaign now, I guess, that rather than try to explain his 2011 position with a “yes, but,” he’s opting for a clear if misleading “hell, no.” In fact, 2011 wasn’t the last time he supported ending all foreign aid, including to Israel; Dave Weigel’s catalogued a few other comments from over the last few years. Sometimes he frames the question in terms of Israel being wealthy enough to pay for its own defense, other times he uses the more hawk-pleasing argument that cutting aid would actually free Israel to hit its jihadi neighbors like Hamas and Iran as hard as it wants without meddling from the United States.

Either way, he no longer holds this view. Watch the second clip below from last week (via MFP) and you’ll see that he supports funding for Iron Dome. Maybe that’s because purely defensive weapons are more copacetic with his view of foreign entanglements or maybe it’s because, having tried and failed to convince conservatives that cutting aid could be good for America and for Israel, he’s decided to give in before 2016 rivals like Ted Cruz start paying attention to this issue. I tend to think he realized at some point that his larger project of cutting all foreign aid would face much greater resistance within the GOP if it included Israel, so by bowing to them on that point and building up some credibility with hawks now, they might be willing to support cutting aid for everyone but Israel later. Whatever the answer, though, if you’re skittish about Paul’s foreign policy you can take some comfort in the fact that, unlike his old man, he apparently can and will bend towards majority Republican opinion if crossing it imperils his career. In fact, read Leon Wolf’s post at Red State noting that this isn’t the first time Paul has flip-flopped on an issue for apparently political reasons. For most politicians, that would be a black mark. For Paul, who’s busy flipping towards mainstream conservatives, maybe it’s reassuring to the voters he needs.


Update: This is, I think, the first time we’ve received a statement from Paul’s office in response to a post. That’s how important this issue is.

Spokesman for Senator Rand Paul:

“Senator Rand Paul has never proposed any legislation that targeted Israel’s aid and just last week voted to continue and increase funding to the State of Israel. Sen. Paul is a strong supporter of the Jewish state of Israel. In 2011, Sen. Paul proposed a budget resolution that did not include certain foreign assistance programs in an effort to balance the budget in five years.

Subsequent budget proposals made by Sen. Paul have included up to $5 billion for foreign assistance to account for U.S.-Israel security interests.

Sen. Paul’s position was exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu said to Congress on July 10, 1996 and May 24, 2011 – Israel will be better off when it does not have to count on anyone else for its protection.

Sen. Paul has attempted several times this year to pass the Stand with Israel Act. The bill would cut off the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority if it were allied with Hamas. Last month, he issued a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requesting committee action on the Stand with Israel Act.”

Facts Supporting Claim

Senator Rand Paul’s position was exactly what Prime Minister Netanyahu said to Congress on July 10, 1996 and May 24, 2011 – Israel will be better off when it does not have to count on anyone else for its protection.

· Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the U.S. Congress on July 10, 1996 saying, “With America’s help, Israel has grown to be a powerful, modern state. I believe that we can now say that Israel has reached childhood’s end, that it has matured enough to begin approaching a state of self­ reliance.”

· He further added on July 10, 1996, “But I believe there can be no greater tribute to America’s long-standing economic aid to Israel than for us to be able to say: We are going to achieve economic independence. We are going to do it. In the next four years, we will begin the long-term process of gradually reducing the level of your generous economic assistance to Israel.”

· On May 24, 2011, the Prime Minister addressed the U.S. Congress again saying, “My friends, you don’t need to do nation building in Israel. We’re already built. You don’t need to export Democracy to Israel. We’ve already got it. You don’t need to send American troops to defend Israel. We defend ourselves. You’ve been very generous in giving us tools to do the job of defending Israel on our own.”

Senator Rand Paul supports Israel, and just last week voted to continue/ increase funding for Israel.

· Senator Rand Paul has attempted several times this year to pass the Stand with Israel Act. The bill would cut off the flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars to the Palestinian Authority if it were allied with Hamas.

· Last month, he issued a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), and Ranking Member, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), requesting committee action on the Stand with Israel Act.

· His attempt to pass the Stand with Israel Act was once again blocked