When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced his bill to cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority and remove all executive discretion, we immediately saw the problem. This was not because of some unique insight or some high-level source. It is widely known among Israel watchers and activists that the PA cooperates extensively with Israel on anti-terrorism measures. A bill that left no wiggle room for such pro-Israel efforts was going to be problematic. I had an extensive discussion with Rand Paul’s senior adviser Brian Darling and then wrote a blog post explaining this. After that blog post I had more conversation with a senior Rand Paul adviser who said that Rand Paul would be happy to look at such concerns. This was all a starting point for dialogue.
Then one of the most respected Israel experts, former deputy national security adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams (who engineered an agreement on settlements and helped forge a close relationship between Israel and the U.S.), wrote a piece explaining:
Why is this not smart legislation? Among other things, it is not smart because it would force a cut-off of any U.S. assistance to the Palestinian security forces.
Under Yasser Arafat, those forces, at that time thirteen in all, were disorganized, totally corrupt, and wholly politicized; the late Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon used to call them “terror-security forces.” But since Arafat’s death in 2004 the United States has made a major effort to professionalize those forces. American generals have led efforts to train them, at bases in Jordan, and they have worked with American security and intelligence officials.
Perhaps more significantly, this effort has paid dividends in valuable cooperation against terror between Israeli and Palestinian forces. . . . If the Palestinian forces that we have trained stop cooperating with Israel, or start winking at Hamas terrorism, we should cut them off. Until that happens, a cut-off is foolish and possibly dangerous. Whatever the intent of Sen. Paul’s legislation, it is certainly no help to Israel.
And the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee let it be known it did not like the bill for precisely the reason we explained. An AIPAC source told me, “We are not supporting the Paul bill. We believe the law currently on the books is strong and ensures that aid is contingent on key conditions that help maintain America’s influence, keep Israel secure and advance the peace process. AIPAC supports a cut off of aid to any Palestinian government that includes an unreformed Hamas, and this is what is provided for in current law.”
Understanding all this, one or more senators denied Rand Paul unanimous consent for his bill. His attempt to regain credibility with pro-Israel Republicans was dashed.
So what does Rand Paul do? Where is the willingness to listen to concerns? No, that’s a façade erected by aides. The real Rand Paul, whose knowledge is paper thin, attacks critics, accusing AIPAC of not being interested in defending the Jewish state. As when challenged before (on his comments about VP Dick Cheney and WWII, hiring the Southern Avenger, etc.) he lashes out: “I think 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 Palestine.” (Tip: There is no “Palestine.” There is the Palestinian Authority. The PA would like to declare unilaterally a state, but even the current president won’t go along.)
Rand Paul’s charge is categorically false. Rand Paul either knows it is false or he hasn’t bother to talk to his own aides, to anyone at AIPAC or to any expert who has raised concerns. This is Paul in a nutshell. Craftier than his father, his world view is nevertheless is filled with half-truths, weird conspiracy theories and out-and-out falsehoods. When found out, he reacts peevishly and with reckless disregard for the truth. This is not presidential material. It’s not even Senate material.